Imagine a future where you’ll be able to physically reach out to poke your Facebook friends (gross), where tweets are the de facto mode of communication for large-scale emergencies (cool), and where people log into Google Plus for more than just wondering, “Are people using Google Plus yet?” (Okay, okay, we couldn’t help ourselves with that one — but really, we actually are, so put us in your circles already.)
If those scenarios seem far-fetched, perhaps you’re thinking too near-term. Whether it’s through major acquisitions or seemingly minor service enhancements, the major social networks are making changes to their products on a weekly, daily, even hourly basis. Fortune asked a few experts to daydream about where these networks might be five and 10 years down the line. Their responses were surprisingly realistic.
Breaking the biggest news of the month, if not the year, Facebook (FB) set the social scene ablaze with its March 25 acquisition of Oculus VR, valued at approximately $2 billion. A sharp turn in Facebook’s product road map, the purchase has pundits imagining all sorts of crossovers for the social network and virtual reality technology.
“The Oculus purchase further shows how Facebook will be obsessed with staying relevant by buying the next big thing,” says Paul Berry, founder and CEO of New York City-based social publishing platform RebelMouse. Through this and other acquisitions, Berry thinks Facebook will become a brand-holding company in the future, similar to Viacom or Hearst. “I see them, better than anyone else, using their market capitalization to create even bigger market cap for the Instagrams or WhatsApps,” he says.
But internally, Facebook may split over dueling objectives, says Michael Jones, CTO of Portland, Ore.-based Little Bird, a company that provides social influencer analytics and research. ”[Facebook] used to be a lot more fun and idealistic, and now that they’re public, there is extreme pressure upon that organization to grow up quickly and to monetize,” he says. This “great divide” will continue on for years, as half of the company drives toward generating revenue while the rest pursues the founding ideals of authentic engagement and connecting the world.