The headline to Guy Dixon's post on is "Facebook user numbers fall in the UK". The sub-title is: "Social networking fatigue sets in at last".

I don't think the one follows the other. I think that what we are really seeing is simply Facebook Fatigue.

I felt the first effects of Facebook Fatigue months ago and stopped actively using it although I still respond to the alerts that it sends me about people communicating with me in some way. I wouldn't want to be rude!

When Facebook announced their platform which would allow third parties to deploy applications within the Facebook environment, I was momentarily interested, until I had a closer look, and concluded:

I just can’t get all that excited about facebook as a platform. From my point of view, in an exciting era of mashups, facebook is only seriously mashable in one direction, and it’s the wrong direction. If facebook’s social networks were exposed to the web, ‘mine-able’ and mashable - now that would be exciting.

I have yet to see a compelling use of Facebook's platform. Very quickly, during the period I actually used Facebook, I decided that the only value it offered me was the status and news updates provided by my 'Facebook friends'. The RSS output facility for these allowed me follow them without having to log in to the application proper. Of course, this relegated me to the status of ' lurker' but I was already getting bored with the thing anyway.

I was actually alerted to the possibility of more widespread Facebook Fatigue by someone 'tweeting' about it on Twitter. Twitter is, from my point of view, interesting in all the ways that Facebook just isn't. From one point of view, Twitter provides the social network and 'status updates' functionality of Facebook, and nothing else. Importantly, it does so in an open way - it has a very good (and simple) API which has allowed a number of applications which use Twitter to spring up already. Where everything developed for the Facebook platform is only usable within Facebook itself, Twitter-based applications can be deployed anywhere.

I'm a fan of Twitter. It took me a while to 'get it', but now it is becoming increasingly useful to me. It's my virtual 'water-cooler', where I catch up on the gossip in my network. It's my alerting system for breaking news. It's agile - I can easily start/stop following people. Now I can do the same to 'tags' - if I get interested in something, I'll follow it for a while, then stop. By embracing the constraint of the 140 character limit per post, we get a very different communication channel - one which seems to fit a need for an increasing number of people. Where my network on Facebook peaked to a plateau quite early on, on Twitter I'm gaining new contacts frequently.

Facebook has failed (so far) to get embedded, in systems, workflow or practice on a large scale. Given it's massive user-base, this is interesting. Facebook seems to want to be the destination, and the only destination. Twitter is already both destination and component - I now habitually turn to Facebook to see what my network thinks about the latest news for example, and have already started roughing up application which could use Twitter to add to my ' finely-tuned antennae'.

If you haven't already, give Twitter a try.

Social networking fatigue? We're only just warming up!