Over the past couple of years, Facebook (http://www.facebook.com) and MySpace (http://www.myspace.com) have cornered the social networking market. Millions of people flock to both services to meet others, to keep track of friends, to share interests, and, yes, even to do a little unsavoury spying on others. Despite the popularity of both sites, it may be that Facebook will very soon outstrip MySpace in personal networking, and cause a lot of smaller services to either join a possible Facebook revolution or to close down entirely.
While both Facebook and MySpace provide unique services, Facebook has several advantages not met by the MySpace community, and surpasses MySpace in several key areas. The most notable difference, right up front, is the basic user interface. Facebook is clean, easy to navigate, and fairly ad-free. The only advertising I’ve come across so far is a few text-based advertisements placed within a person’s update page. They are unobtrusive and contain nothing that slows down the web-surfing experience.
Recently Facebook implemented the one thing that could eventually see the demise of other Personal Information Management (PIM), social networking, and blogging sites; the new feature is the Facebook Platform. The Facebook Platform allows anyone to build an application that can be implemented by Facebook and inserted into a user’s profile page. Now, not only do users have access to Notes, The Wall, Posted Items, Import Blog, Groups, and Networks, they have a choice between hundreds of other applications (new ones being added daily) that allow users to integrate with other sites and do an almost mind-boggling array of things like import videos and other media; keep track of RSS feeds; share the music they’re currently listening to; provide a space where people can download files you provide them; add voice posts; provide links to other social network and PIM sites that the user may use; play a wide range of games; augment the already-provided Facebook basic services; and a lot more.
The Facebook Platform and several of its programs are still in their infancy, so there are still a lot of kinks in some of the systems, but so far the response from users has been very favourable. Feedback from users has also been impressive, providing useful notes and hints for the application creators, rather than merely bitching that something might not be working right. The application creators themselves, along with the Facebook staff, seem very willing to work out bugs and take suggestions from the denizens of Facebook. The best thing about these new services, along with the Facebook basics, is that they are simple to add or remove, and just as easy to customize.
Facebook can take the place of a PIM, a journal, a blog, an address book, a photo album, and just about any other personal online service you might want. It remains free and easily accessible, for the most part, but still presents a problem for AU students who are not provided an email address with which they might join the network provided for AU students. All is not lost, however. While it is an annoyance that we cannot yet join an AU network, there is an AU group (community) to join, where you can hopefully find the AU-related socialization you’re looking for.
So far I have not had anything to complain about regarding the service, and do have things to cheer about. I have found cousins I’ve not spoken with in many years, and found long-lost friends from my misspent youth. If you want another social networking option, or want to look people up, I’d suggest signing up for a Facebook account. Remember, despite the negative experiences and impressions that others might have of a social networking system, it can be what you make it, and doesn’t have to remain only what others make of it.
Other social networking and personal information sharing services you might wish to check out are:
last.fm – http://www.last.fm
Allow others to see what music you’re listening to on your computer, search for new sounds, and share your musical tastes with others via groups dedicated to whatever musical interest you might have.
del.icio.us – http://del.icio.us
A public storehouse for your Internet bookmarks and links. Fabulous for use as a storage place, and also as a links blog.
LiveJournal – http://www.livejournal.com
Online journaling and communities based around mutual interest.
LinkedIn – http://www.linkedin.com
A network of professionals that allows you to see and share work histories with others, make professional contacts, and perhaps be found for your dream job.
Twitter – http://www.twitter.com
Keep abreast of the moment-to-moment activities of your friends.
flickr – http://www.flickr.com
Share your photographs, and other image-related work, with others, and see a world of stunning imagery.