I’ve been using Google Trends to track the rise of Facebook and the fall of MySpace for years. To my surprise Facebook has kept ascending up the Google search traffic for years past when I thought it would hit diminishing marginal returns of mind-share (I assumed it would level off in 2008). But it looks like it has finally reached a “mature” phase in 2011. First, let’s compare Facebook, Myspace, and Google in 2008. The following is search traffic on Google for the whole world….
Now for the past 12 months….
MySpace keeps drifting down to cultural irrelevance. Google holds steady, as it has for a while now. But finally you see the possibility that Facebook’s search traffic growth has started leveling off in 2011. The pattern is more evident when you look at all years:
Please note: I am not saying that Facebook is going to go through a MySpace like implosion. Google has been a “mature” company for at least a half a decade. Despite its leveling off of growth from its early years it is still a force to be reckoned with. Even firms like Microsoft, which seem to be collecting de facto rents from the successes of the 1990s, have years of being flush in front of them. But unless Facebook executes and implements another Big Idea I think we’re viewing it in the early stages of ripening. No doubt media coverage will explode before its I.P.O., but there won’t be massive gains in influence and “mind-share” due to endogenous parameters driven by the firm itself.
These trend lines also validate the urban-wisdom that becoming the “Person of the Year” marks the point of saturation, beyond which you’ll hit the zone of sharply diminishing returns. Facebook’s trend data levels off right when Time‘s story on Mark Zuckerberg hit the newsstands.