So I finally joined Facebook.
I have a number of more or less antiquated profiles on Friendster, Ryze, and LinkedIn (I think my Ryze profile is still pushing my Lotus Notes skills) and have resisted joining Yet Another Social Network. However, I have received multiple invites from non-geeky friends lately - and the last Rails Pub Nite had a lot of talk about Facebook as a web application framework - so I decided it was about time to join up.
Toronto, a city with roughly 5 million people, has over 700,000 Facebook members - that's more than 10% of the population! I can't think of another technology that has had such a rapid growth to such a large part of the population. Only London UK has more people on Facebook, and they're a much bigger city.
I duly set up my profile and linked to Toronto, Oberlin College, and Lisgar Collegiate (my High School in Ottawa). Looking at the Toronto network, I feel old. The Oberlin College network is really more for current or pending students, and the alumni group from my year doesn't seem to include many of my old friends. Finally, looking at my High School network reminded me of how few of these people I really wanted to talk to again.
It's nice to be able to import your RSS feed into the 'Notes' application - I don't need to maintain multiple sites for my personal information. The only downside is that images don't seem to come through reliably. Looking at the generated source, it looks like Facebook is filtering images in various ways, no doubt for security and anti-spam reasons. So if you're wondering where my cat pictures are, blame the spammers and go to my original page!
My favourite feature (and I gather I'm not alone in this) is the "Andrew is..." status message. It's really simple to update, and I really like seeing a quick overview of what all of my friends and contacts are doing. This has been so popular that it has spawned a whole separate industry.
My least favourite feature is how everything is built around your networks and how networks are much more powerful than groups. Given its origins as a college-based tool this makes sense, but I have almost a million people in my network, which ends up meaning nothing, really. I'd like to see groups have as much prominence in navigation and security access as networks, but I'm guessing that would be a pretty hefty architecture change.
It's nice to see a popular slick website using AJAX/DHTML so thoroughly. It mostly works, and when it does it's nice and clean and makes things easier.
The modular architecture and the ability to include new applications is a real killer feature. The applications, though, seem to be mostly silly: Buy someone a drink! Turn your friends into zombies! I guess one should never underestimate the power of silly in a social context, but it's hard to see a big future in it. This is a space that is likely to become more interesting in the coming months.
Everyone was shocked last year when the founders turned down $1.5 billion from Yahoo. Turns out that was probably a good idea - they're becoming something much bigger than just another social network. It's possible that in a few years they'll be ready to buy Yahoo.
Interesting notes on the class divisions between Facebook and MySpace. More interesting is how MySpace is owned by Rupert Murdoch, the guy behind Fox Television, which also tends to a lower-class demographic.
I'm trying to keep from going too crazy on Facebook, and am trying to limit my Friends list to people with whom I've actually been friends for some time. So if you had a locker near mine in High School or we've met once or twice at an industry event, don't be offended if I don't instantly agree to be your friend. I'm just trying to preserve my sanity!
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