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Facebook's Got Five Years Left, Says Web Analyst

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If history has taught us anything -- and for the majority of us, that's a pipe dream -- it's that goods and services have shorter shelf lives in the digital age. Sure, we have outliers like Google, Amazon, and eBay. But for the most part, most online outfits have a brief moment in the sun and then it's a long, agonizing path to pasture. (See Napster, Friendster, and MySpace)

And even with its 500 million users and feature film, web expert Jeffrey Cole believes Facebook has, at best, five more years left in it.

At a marketing forum in Sydney, Cole asserted that Facebook won't be any better holding onto its audience than fallen brethren MySpace and Bebo. Relating the former to the seemingly bulletproof social network, he said, "The same thing will happen to Facebook but it's going to take a lot longer." Adding, "And it's not going to be replaced by one big social networking community but it's going to fragment."

We're already beginning to see the seedlings to such an online atmosphere where numerous services -- Twitter, Foursquare, Yelp, etc. -- are spread out beyond the scope of a single service. Perhaps the new king will be the one who aggregates all these apps under one seamless roof.

Cole also provided some good news and bad news to the print industry. Although he believes most of the US newspapers will also be dead in five years, he predicts consumers will actually start paying for content -- a prospect that has bore little fruit in the past. But it's the iPad which Cole believes could usher in the as-of-now futile marketing scheme.

"Newspapers and magazines were never going to prosper on the PC because they're lean-back [media]. I think [the iPad] is the most exciting development in the last 100 years for newspapers," he said. "It becomes a really viable medium."

If he's right and consumers do start paying for content because of the iPad, then Steve Jobs really would have performed a miracle on par with walking on water.
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