Like most people in our little world, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time lately thinking and having conversations about Facebook. Unlike what seems to be the rest of the natural world, I’m not totally sold. I know about many of the features as well as the platform and news feed and I think many of them are quite fascinating and even brilliant. However, I’m still not sold that they’ve created a long-term success.
So I decided to open it up to all of you. I would really love to hear opinions, thoughts, insights into what’s going on over at Facebook. There aren’t that many things that I don’t have opinions on and to be honest it makes me a bit uncomfortable. If you’ve got something to say, just drop it in the comments. I’d really appreciate it.
Let me throw out a couple of my own thoughts to get things started.
- I’m increasingly convinced that the only thing Facebook really has is critical mass. This is a dangerous selling proposition. How is it that much different than Myspace? (Obviously it’s much more user-centric and closed, but really, what are the core differentiators?) I’m feeling as though the number one reason to be on Facebook is that all your friends are on Facebook. The problem with that is that at some point in the near future all your friends will be somewhere else and while I’m totally fine with using Facebook for now, is it just inevitable that social networking sites come and go in waves?
- The news feed is a brilliant thing. It’s funny to think back to people’s responses (including my own). What was initially seen as a privacy invasion seems to be widely cited as the most popular feature (and a fairly valuable one for the company).
- Danah Boyd hit the nail on the head with her latest post about the loss of context on Facebook. “For months, I’ve been ignoring most friend requests,” Boyd writes. “Tonight, I gave up and accepted most of them. I have been facing the precise dilemma that I write about in my articles: what constitutes a “friend”? Where’s the line? For Facebook, I had been only accepting friend requests from people that I went to school with and folks who have socialized at my house. But what about people that I enjoy talking with at conferences? What about people who so kindly read and comment on this blog? What about people I respect? What about people who appreciate my research but whom I have not yet met? I started feeling guilty as people poked me and emailed me to ask why I hadn’t accepted their friend request. My personal boundaries didn’t matter – my act of ignorance was deemed rude by those that didn’t share my social expectations.” This is an interesting issue and speaks to why it may be inevitable that new social networking platforms will rise and fall every two years or so. As users begin to lose context/control there are opportunities for new sites to rise and take their place. Those new sites are used to communicate with your core group of “real” friends until they too are overrun and its on to the next location.
- Although . . . I did think the first comment on Danah’s post was quite insightful. From someone named Nathan D: “Maybe the real trend is the gradual loss of “context” — where people are less differentiated in their persona between school, work, and social worlds. Worlds collide!” I think Nathan is exactly right. The issue is that a) as people we’re trying to hold on to the last shreds of “context” and b) these sites were built for a world where “context” is a meaningful thing. I wonder if there’s not an opportunity to approach social networking from this new perspective and build something revolutionary.
- I know there are lots of new sites popping up that are promising to let you be multiple “yous”. The idea is that your work, school, home and family identities are all quite different and you should be able to deal with that on a social networking site. I’m not sure this is the answer either, as the different face you present to these different groups isn’t a considered one. The idea of managing the four different worlds in an active way sounds like a fairly miserable user experience. That’s not to say it can’t be solved, but . . .
So that’s it for now. If I come up with any other random thoughts I’ll add them. Like I said, I would love to hear what all of you think of Facebook? Will it last? Is it really different? Why do you use it? What happens when people’s moms get on the site? Lots of questions. Would love to hear your thoughts.