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I'm calling it: Social networking is over

Mike Elgan | May 3, 2016
And just like that, social networking is no more. The sites formerly known as social networks are pivoting to something else.

Just ask Twitter

Micro-blogging, micro-schmogging. No matter what you call it, Twitter is included in every roundup, comparison or article about social networking. It's universally included in the "social network" category.

That's why it's telling that Twitter last week reportedly recategorized itself in Apple's App Store. The company removed its app from the "social networking" category and put it into the "news" category.

The move transformed Twitter from the No. 5 social networking app in the App Store to the No. 1 news app. The move also redefines Twitter: It's no longer a place where people connect with other people to talk about their lives; it's now a place where people get news.

Twitter is telling us that Twitter is no longer about social networking. Twitter is now about social media. And Twitter probably wouldn't have made the move if the social networking category was burning with relevance.

Facebook votes with its billions

Facebook remains on top of the App Store "social networking" charts. But if you look at the company's actions and trends in recent years, you can see how it's de-emphasizing social networking.

Let's start with acquisitions. In the past two years, Facebook has bought a messaging alternative to social networking (WhatsApp), a virtual reality company (Oculus VR), a drone company (Ascenta), a fitness-tracking app (Moves), a couple of augmented reality companies (Surreal Vision and Pebbles), and other companies that have little to do with good old-fashioned social networking.

Facebook even unveiled a 360-degree video camera rig that has 17 cameras. Nobody's going to use that to post status updates.

Facebook is also reportedly working on a stand-alone app that works a lot like Snapchat. It's essentially a camera app that lets you share photos, videos and live-streaming video via Facebook. (Instead of opening to the status updates and posts of family and friends, it aggressively invites the user to capture something with the camera and share it.)

What's most interesting about this initiative is that it's designed to counter the fact that, according to The Wall Street Journal, there is "anxiety within Facebook over users’ increasingly passive behavior on the social network. Many users check Facebook daily or even multiple times a day, but fewer are sharing photos, videos and status updates about their own lives."

In other words, fewer people are doing social networking.

Meanwhile -- in addition to messaging, fitness-tracking and virtual and augmented reality -- Facebook is driving innovation in chatbots, artificial intelligence, drones, satellites, e-commerce, gaming and more.

Facebook is mostly concerned with keeping eyeballs glued to Facebook, and encouraging photo and video posts is one way to do that.


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