The Decline of Facebook

Facebook is still a huge name these days, but doesn’t it seem like the hype has died down a bit?  I mean, lots of people still use it, but it seems like I’m hearing more and more people say they’ve pretty much given up on it.  Today, the biggest name in social media is, without a doubt, Instagram, with Snapchat and Twitter also hot.  So what happened to Facebook anyway?

What’s happened to Facebook has happened to technology before.  Take email, for instance.  Remember when email was a fun, exciting way to talk to friends?  Now it’s a chore.  What happened?  Well, when people first started using email, not everyone had it.  That made everyone who did have it special.  So you enjoyed using it because it was new and cool.  It also meant that nothing truly important happened over email, because not everyone had it, so it wasn’t reliable.  But then that started to change.  Pretty soon, just about everyone had email.  That was good news at first: now we could all use email for “important” things, like planning get togethers with friends.  This wasn’t what posed the problem.  The problem occurred when other people, people like our employers and advertisers, realized that everyone was using email.  Now I’m not trying to knock employers here.  It’s their job to figure out new communications technologies and use them.  But it does kinda take the fun out of it, you know?  Now that we were getting emails about things that really were important, things that we needed to know, we had to really buckle down and be diligent about it.  Now we couldn’t just check email every day because it was fun, but because we had to.  And like a reverse Tom Sawyer, that sucked all the fun out of email.  It didn’t happen quickly.  But sooner or later we all realized that email was a chore.  Not that it can’t be fun sometimes.  But mostly, it’s something we check because we have to.

The same thing happened to Facebook.  It started out cool and new and fun, and then everyone expected you to have Facebook.  And they expected you to check it.  And that took a little of the fun out of it.  And in this way, Facebook is a victim of its own success.

I have never used Facebook, which honestly has made all of this far more interesting to watch, from the outside.  I know people still use Facebook a lot, and they still enjoy using it, but it just doesn’t seem to get as much enthusiasm as I remember it once getting.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Facebook is going away any time soon (I’ve been saying all this stuff for years and it’s still here), and it does still seem to be the go-to place for lots of people to post about their lives.  And it’s also a go-to place for people to go find out about their friends’ lives.  And that – that real, human element – will keep people coming back, in a way no app update ever will.

So again, I don’t think Facebook is dead in the water, not for a while yet, but I definitely think we went over peak Facebook quite a while ago.  Here’s the last bit of irony, though: remember what I said up at the top about Instagram?  Facebook owns Instagram (though it did cost them a cool $1 billion).  I don’t think a lot of people know this.  So, next time you read some crazy guy’s article about how Facebook is dead (no, no, I mean other than mine), just remember this: Even if Facebook the website dies, Facebook the company bank account still has quite a while to go.  ••

Dropbox vs. Microsoft OneDrive

I’ve been a Dropbox user for 3 years now.  I think most people have heard of Dropbox; it’s the most well known cloud storage service available.  Up until a couple of months ago, Dropbox was the only cloud storage I used.  In July, however, I got a Microsoft Office365 subscription (I got a really good deal as a college student), and as part of that I get 1tb (not a typo) of space in Microsoft OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive).  At the time, I mostly used Dropbox for photos and documents, and I had worked my way up to almost 6gb of space.  Upon getting 1tb, my first thought was “I’ll never have to clear out my cloud storage ever again!”  Six weeks later, however, I’ve moved my photos back to Dropbox, leaving the documents in OneDrive.  As I found out, each service has its pros and cons.

Desktop Client
As the leader of the cloud storage industry, Dropbox really knows its stuff.  It has a certain “it just works” feel to it; a polish that’s come simply from being around for so long.  I used to think that this was a given, but after using the (slightly less polished) OneDrive, I’ve really come to appreciate it.  For instance, there are times when I need to get a file from my iPad to my computer.  Sitting in front of both devices, I watch the iPad until it says the upload is complete, then I look up at the computer, and the Dropbox client is already downloading the file.  I took speed like this for granted.  However, when doing the same thing using OneDrive, I look up from my iPad and… OneDrive isn’t doing anything.  I click the little icon, and OneDrive proudly tells me that it “Last updated 8 minutes ago.”  What has it been doing for the last 8 minutes?  OneDrive just sits there, waiting patiently for what is apparently a timed update cycle.  There’s no manual refresh button; the only thing you can do is reboot the client.  This is really frustrating.  The OneDrive client seems slower and less efficient in general, too.  Other than that, though, it is a serviceable client, and it works well enough.

iOS Apps
I can’t speak to Android apps here, but I did use both Dropbox and OneDrive on my iPad and iPod Touch.  Both apps have features to automatically upload photos, and the OneDrive app seems better at keeping up with this in the background.  However, the Dropbox upload algorithm has one or two clever touches.  For example, the most recent photos upload first.  This way, if you take a photo and want to share it via Dropbox, then find there’s 30 photos that didn’t upload yesterday, you don’t have to wait.  Videos upload last for the same reason.  The OneDrive app is also missing a way to save files for offline use (as someone who doesn’t have an iPhone, this is a feature I missed).  Again, though, both apps work well.  One other important point is that Office Mobile apps can connect directly to OneDrive.  Sure, there are plenty of productivity apps that link with Dropbox, but when you use a third-party productivity app alongside Word you usually get little formatting bugs in your document (not that I care too much about these, but if you’re doing something important for work or school, they’re not good).

Browser Client
I actually think I’m going to give this category to OneDrive.  The interfaces are very similar, but I like OneDrive’s better, especially for photos.  Also, OneDrive has Office Online integration, so clicking a Word document opens it up right there in a new tab for editing.  The one leg up Dropbox has is that newly uploaded files automatically appear, without you having to refresh the page.  On OneDrive, you’re going to have to reach for your browser’s refresh button.

Storage Space
Dropbox starts you off with 2gb of storage space.  This might have been a lot five or six years ago, but these days, it’s pretty small.  OneDrive starts with 15gb, so does Google Drive, and Box gives you 10gb.  As you can see, 2gb is really small.  Granted, there’s lot of things you can do to earn more space (use their photo uploader, refer friends, connect with Twitter and Facebook, etc.), but OneDrive offers many of these bonuses as well.  I’m really hoping that, sometime soon, Dropbox will increase their starting space to something more competitive.  Hopefully, this will also apply retroactively to old accounts.  I know that sounds unlikely, but when Dropbox upped their referral bonus from 250mb to 500mb, they applied the extra space to retroactive referrals as well.

Sharing
Both services allow you to send file links to other people (even if they don’t use the service), as well as created shared folders (with those who do use the service) for collaboration.  When you get a shared link from either service, you have an option to download the files as a .zip.  However, when you get a Dropbox link, you also have the option to “Add to My Dropbox.”  This is easy and quick, and can also be done from a smartphone.  Even if OneDrive were to add this feature, it would be less useful, because less people use OneDrive.

So what is each service good for?  Well, as I said, I decided to move my photos back to Dropbox, because it just works better (even though I wish I had more space).  I did decide to keep my documents in OneDrive though, mostly because of the aforementioned Office Mobile integration.  Finally, I’m going to continue to use Dropbox to share files.

So that’s my future plan, but what are your thoughts? How (and why) do you use different services? Feel free to leave a comment about your preferences. Thanks for reading!  ••

Update 11/6/14: Microsoft Word for iOS now has native Dropbox support!  This is fantastic, and it works really well.  Dropbox also announced that they will continue to work with Microsoft to incorporate Office Online into Dropbox.com.  That being said, I have now moved my documents back to Dropbox, and plan to keep them there.

How Family Sharing Will Ease Your iOS Lifestyle

Everyone in my family owns at least one iOS device (most own two).  In order to keep us from having to buy the same apps and songs multiple times, we all share an Apple ID (the account used to purchase things from the iTunes and App Stores).  This has its benefits.  For example, if someone in my family recommends an app to me, I go and look it up on the app store.  The app shows up as “already purchased” in our account (because it is, just not by me), and this makes it easier to find, since I know someone else has downloaded it.  However, there can also be downsides to sharing an account.  I’m the only one in my family that uses iCloud to sync my calendar and reminders.  This is fortunate, since anyone else who wanted their reminders to sync would have theirs dumped in with mine (a less than ideal situation).  Fortunately, iOS 8 may offer a solution.

iOS 8 will include a new feature called “Family Sharing.”  This isn’t a way to separate one Apple ID into multiple users, rather it’s a way to link multiple Apple IDs into one group.  Basically, the idea is that each person has their own Apple ID.  This is used both for purchasing and for other things such as iCloud.  However, when multiple Apple IDs are in a Family Sharing group, anyone can download anything purchased by any other person in the group, without paying for it again (as long as you’re using the same credit card across accounts).  I’m not sure my family will actually use this feature, since as I’ve said, I’m the only one who uses iCloud, so as it is, we don’t have much of a problem.  However, I know people who do have separate Apple IDs, and they have to pay for apps more than once if more than one person wants to use them.

Unfortunately, Family Sharing does not actually allow you to have multiple users on one iOS device.  As TechHive.com put it (in this article), “Apple still seems content with assuming that ‘multiple users’ means ‘one iOS device per person.’”  Like a lot of much-clamored-for iOS features, I don’t think multiple users makes sense at all on the iPhone.  However, this would be a great feature for iPads.  It’s sort of a shame Apple isn’t adding this.

On the whole, however, I think family sharing is a great idea.  As Apple themselves put it (as the iOS 7.1 tagline), “The most advanced mobile OS keeps advancing.”  I for one am very excited for iOS 8, and I’m happy that Apple continues to understand (most) of the wants and needs of their customers.  ••