In the heyday of Facebook (we can debate that later…), it served as a platform for everything: sharing photos, inviting friends to events, status updates, messages, etc. What started as a simple service began adding until it hugged every possible social function imaginable.
And then, things started to fragment. Entrepreneurs parsed out various aspects of Facebook and decided to take a siloed approached to each of the services Facebook did so well. Enter Instagram, Twitter, Eventbrite, contact applications like Brewster and others. And as time moves along, it seems that these services become derivatives of themselves (Snapchat, Jelly, Secret). Consumer technology seems to be moving only in the direction of even more fragmentation.
Consumer tech giants like Facebook and Google want to get ahead of this trend by fragmenting their own products before others are able to do so themselves. Their M&A and product goals seem to corroborate this hypothesis. Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp and attempted buyout of Snapchat is only the beginning. Google’s Hangouts app is a great example of the phenomenon. And as of this week, Facebook announced that the mobile app will no longer allow for messages in-app, but instead users must download a separate app to send Facebook messages to their friends. They also tried this strategy with specific apps that flopped, like Poke and Messenger v1.
As for the future? It seems these things go in cycles. I predict that after a poor user experience that fragmentation provides, these consumer products will consolidate once again to make a user experience easier. For the time being, products like IFTTT is a great example of how users will skirt some of the problems fragmentation poses.
Would be curious to hear people’s thoughts on standalone products from within large companies?