For Facebook, the first half billion were easy

Analysts say social network will likely have have a much harder time reaching the billion mark

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In fact, recent rumors suggest that Facebook could soon be facing off directly against the Internet giant, Google, which is said to be working on a Facebook-killer -- or at least a potential Facebook rival offering. Dubbed Google Me by the blogosphere, the service would seek to grab a good chunk of Facebook's user base, as well as its revenue.

"I think it will be tougher for [Facebook to get] the next 500 million [users]," said Shimmin. "Just because of the raw numbers, it will be harder, but the more successful Facebook is, the more competition there will be on the horizon."

Once a significant number of Facebook users leave the social network, others could become comfortable making a decision to leave. Once there is critical mass, users will find that they can catch up with a lot of friends and relatives on another site. At that point, the wave of adoption of a new social network should multiply.

Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group, said Facebook must work quickly to change people's negative perception of the site.

"They have to reemerge out of their cloud of problems and start being perceived as a service that solves problems instead of creates them," he said. "Instead of appearing as a bad use of time they have to provide a return consistent with the effort that people put into it. They need to seem to be something other than aggravating, old and boring."

Augie Ray, an analyst with Forrester, said Facebook has to successfully complete a hefty to-do list to remain as popular as it is now.

"This will require more focus on internationalization, continued innovation, but also an eye toward the concerns consumers have voiced about the platform," Ray said.

"As this week's ACSI report demonstrates, people may be addicted to Facebook, but they aren't particularly satisfied with it. Growing to 1 billion users, particularly as potential competitive social networks are launched by Google and others, will take an ever greater eye toward building trust and loyalty, not just usage," he added.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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