Is Facebook the AOL of its time

Sometimes even typing the title of blog post is scary.  I expect to get some pushback on this one.

At Gigaom’s blog this weekend was the analysis that Social Networks had peeked.  I always try to be a contrarian.  My history is to never join a ground swell in either direction.  So this obviously has to be the an upbeat discussion.

So let me put this in terms of what I see with the wife and kids.  My wife is still an active AOL user.  She has email loops and favorites and if she ever was going to leave AOL it would be because those features disappear.  In other words, her good will is almost everlasting. AOL is her address book and her buddy list. AOL lost its “cool” was when broadband became available and apps were discovered by the subscribers that made AOL’s interm portals irrelevant.

Facebook has very similar relationships with my kids.  The “kewl” factors are the network they have with their friends. And the groups and apps are minor for them the networking and the wall is a great asynchronous communication amongst their friends.

So what would drive the friends off of Facebook?

I think a mis-step in privacy and the effort to insert more financially viable solutions may allow the kids to look elsewhere.  As Facebook starts to lose execs and add new executives from Google and Yahoo! the question is will the kids be everlasting Facebook users.

The obvious question is what are they willing to pay for? Unlike AOL, Facebook has set their prize at zero.

I would love the analysis of the change in Facebook use five years after graduation.

So far I don’t see the driver to leave.