Welcome to the bloggy home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Percolate and general internet tinkerer. This site is about media, culture, technology, and randomness. It's been around since 2004 (I'm pretty sure). Feel free to get in touch. Get in touch.

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What Do You Think of Facebook?

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.

Oh, and it’s kind of interesting to go back and look at this entry from December of 2004 where I asked almost the exact same question.

August 12, 2007

Comments

  • Dan Dickinson says:

    How is it that much different than Myspace?

    I’ve always felt the differentiator is that MySpace is all about “design”, while Facebook ends up being about “content”. (I use both of these terms very loosely.)

    Consider the activities that I’ve seen people doing the most on MySpace: Rebalancing your top 8 (or 12, 16, 20, 24…) for optimum friend ordering, replacing your embedded music, leaving comments with huge embedded images, etc. These are all audio/visual points of interest – there ends up being very little structure to what content they contain.

    On Facebook, the top activities are now application adding, wall writing, and status updates. The point of doing these isn’t to appeal to the senses, but to provide content.

    Again, I’m generalizing. But it’s always struck me that MySpace ends up being more right brain, and Facebook ends up being more left brain.

  • Ian says:

    Not an insight by any means — just a look at how I use Facebook. I think of Facebook as my “weekend” social network community. I don’t take it too seriously. I don’t feel all that vested in making my page look nice as I do my own blog. To be honest, I have my notifications and requests all fed to my Google Reader — so the only time I log on is when there’s something required of me.

    Where I think Facebook, or any other networking community, is vulnerable is that the switching costs are so low these days. Hell – a new community pops up and all I have to do is register (2 minutes max) and have the site automatically scan my Yahoo address book for friends who are already signed up. That’s what I did for Facebook — it took me all of 10 minutes before I was up-and-running, with a gaggle of familiar faces on my “friends” list.

    Facebook is sticky for sure, but I think people are pretty elastic these days when it comes to social networking. And why wouldn’t they be — look at the physical world. We don’t all go to the same bars, restaurants or clubs for our entire lives. Tastes change. “Neighborhoods” change. People change.

    P.S. nothing to do with nothing, but GO CUBBIES! Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

  • amber says:

    I completely agree with Ian up there. the coolest thing about Facebook is that it’s success or failure is completely irrelevant to the people who use it. look what happened to friendster – we all survived. myspace got really commercial, and somehow, we’re all still making it through the day.

    Now, advertisers are a different story – they probably have a lot to lose, but I guess the money they spend developing that Facebook widget is waaaaay less than the TV commercials they run, so why not? AND they’ll actually be able to see how many people use it – how about that!

    Personally, I like social networks that are centered around a theme, like Flickr, or ThisNext ( love it! ) better than Facebook or Myspace, and I use them way more. Maybe I’m getting old, but being virtually bitten by my friend who turned into a Zombie just isn’t that thrilling for me.

    And i guess if we’re pretending to worry about advertisers, i think that niche social networks like this give brands a better bang for their buck, because they can target people who actually practice what they preach – I might say I’m into design on Facebook, but if I’m an active member of a design-focused social network, the probability that I’ll respond to a thematically relevant ad there is more likely.

  • mark says:

    Facebook was lucky because they were able to capitalize on the niche University platform first. (who from Harvard wouldn’t have joined thefacebook when it was first launched). I really believe that facebook monopolization of that first market gave it the liftoff it needed. All subsequent social networks will have a harder time following suit because they’ll need to find their own niche to jumpstart.

    As a founder of a social network, I am actively feeling the pain.
    Mark from ClutterMe.com

  • lola says:

    my roomate told me yesterday that he did not see the point to have facebook because he has My space. he thinks its a question of age. the people who are 20 today know facebook but dont know my space. For me and my friends in France, this theory works. But i dont see the point. Why dont have both? why dont have 2 same things? Most of us have 2 email adress for example. Even if My Space and Facebook are not different you can make them different posting what you want to post ect…

    i use facebook to be in touch with the persons i like. They can see my photos, they can offer me a present, they can write me something.
    and ..its easier to put you photo there than in a blog!!
    ps . my mam and my dad are in facebook

    facebook is a fashion. its a means to rassure you, to count your friends, to show you. it can be a means to met people with poke and so on. so superficial. i agree.
    but it can be a simple good means of comunication. if it is, it will last.

  • Mike Arauz says:

    I read that Danah Boyd post, too. I have to admit, I really don’t get much use out of Social Networking Sites. I join them because I’m curious about how they work, how they’re designed, and how other people are using them.

    For some reason this article in The Observer about a bench on the Lower East Side that’s become the hottest new club seemed like metaphor for the potential fate of Social Networking culture.

    http://www.observer.com/2007/bench-bunch

    More on this later.

  • Adrian Lai says:

    I dont think Critical Mass is necessarily facebook’s selling proposition. Every SNS wants to achieve a bandwagon effect, but it’s an effect, not a cause. In Facebook’s case, most of my friends like it because its clean, more user-friendly, and has better features. Myspace is spam and ad-ridden. Everytime i sent my friend a message, I got invitations from fake profiles like Shoney, Jenny, Love Tits. This is reason enough to want something better, and Facebook simply came in and filled the gap. It doesn’t matter if it will last because it’s the best right now.

  • Andy says:

    I think the transient ‘neighborhood’ analogies are appropriate. But there is a funcitonal side to the coin.. these sites are all trying to make themselves the nucleus for as much interactivity as they can. They want to be our email inbox, our IM, our photo-sharing, our playground. It seems like a pointless battle as it is the endless alternative stimulus out there that excites us about the web. Even when someone gets it bang-on and it’s as sticky as can be, we’ll still want to stray. Perhaps the next evolutionary step for social network portals is a web browser so all ‘straying’ is also done within the confines of the community.

    p.s. the ‘multiple yous’ territory is very interesting. The idea of having a singular ‘me’ was my biggest discomfort joining these things…

  • Justin says:

    It’s funny how these social networks have a kind of life cycle. I have a profile on Facebook, as well as MySpace and several others but Facebook has proven the most functional for me. I’m going to have to disagree with you on the critical mass factor Noah. Most of the people I know are on MySpace rather than Facebook (though a shift is happening). But I now find myself inviting MySpace friends to come over to Facebook just because the user experience is relatively painless in comparison. And the stickyness of the site is much stronger for me at this point. I tend to go on MySpace, do whatever I need to do, and get the hell off. Facebook will stay open in a browser tab for a while.

    On the homepage, Facebook calls itself a “social utility” and I can recall Zuckerberg himself shying away from the word “social network” in an interview I found a while back on iTunes you. Facebook, up until Platform, eschewed the bells and whistles in favor of making it easy for you to keep tabs on all your friends. With the new Platform, there is the potential for clutter but I really think that people who use Facebook want to minimize that to stay focused on the primary purpose of the site. I’d be interested if they can keep it that way.

    P.S. – Zuckerberg is on the cover of Newsweek. This is starting to smell like when MySpace blew up. I wonder what site’s on Facebook’s heels.

  • Herb says:

    Daggle at http://daggle.com/070810-213304.html (sorry, I’m still learning the whole html thing) has a post “Scoble The Facebook Slut”. He, along with another post that got him thinking, discuss just how much Scoble is on Facebook and how much attention he gets. And if you really wanted to be an attention whore, how you could do the same thing.

    I agree with Ian as well, it’s my “weekend” social network. In fact, I think all social networks are weekend for me. I like being connect, but a bit more simply, I just want to stay connected with friends…maybe not ‘actively’ connected, at all times.

    But the second part of the Daggle post is what bugs me about Facebook. Everything in, nothing out. I don’t like the walled gardened effect. I’m into social media and I want to be able to share pass it. In fact, now that I think about, the pretentiousness of Facebook annoys me. Don’t get me wrong, I like the clean look and feel better than MySpace…but could do without the pretentiousness.

    The economic and demographic split is interesting…but I can’t find a post to reference and I’m actually still realizing how I kind of don’t like MySpace or Facebook.

  • chartreuse says:

    I don’t know much about facebook (not a member) but i think amber really hit on the future of these social networks. It’s going to be all about specific interests.

    While all the 2.0 junkies are all in the crevices of facebook, real people are making places like dogster, ThisNext and the like successful and profitable. And unlike myspace and it’s ilk it’s not about where your friends are but all about you and your specific interest.

    This type of selfishness is good for everyone, from the advertisers on down.

  • Bonnie in Albuquerque says:

    There is another article by Danah Boyd called, “Viewing American Class Divisions through Facebook and MySpace” it is very interesting. I don’t really use either, but have used facebook because i can’t stand the spam on myspace. I agree with Amber that I like networking with a theme. I love flickr and lastfm because there is a purpose to those.
    I also think that when something new comes along, people will go to that.

  • Miguel says:

    Here’s a link to the Newsweek article. More comments to come:
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20227872/site/newsweek/

  • El Gaffney says:

    facebook has a theme – College! holding onto the glory of those days is compelling. problem is now i’m getting friend requests from old colleagues and i mean old. facebook is so well grounded in the past that it has a solid foundation for moving into the future. i have such a strong connection to my college and friends that all the rest is just icing on the cake. but even if i didn’t the new networks—employers more so than cities for me and i believe our industry—and groups are micro-communities within the mega network that satisfy my interests (sportsvite and planning for good, for example). plus, the news feed is like social porn (which i’ve started to collect on my site “why i love facebook”). seriously, it is a social utility that keeps me updated like twitter but for a greater variety of things – relationship status, music, etc. however even with the “cool, you went to that school so did my friend so-and-so” lead in, i still don’t know if they’ve cracked the making new friends with similar interests thing quite yet.

  • salina says:

    I have a different opinion on the power of the newsfeed. I feel like it’s in danger of making me less social. Now, instead of “appointment relationships,” where I have to call until a friend picks up, or plan a time to meet for coffee (a commitment of time and energy on both people’s parts), I can have readymade friendship boosts. Without reciprocated interaction, I can feel satisfied with knowing what’s going on in other people’s lives. That’s okay for distant acquaintances. But with those close to me, I have to fight the urge to supplant an hour-long phone call catch up with with a “I miss you!” wall post. I am still in the exploration phase wherein I’m trying to figure out how to balance connecting more widely versus more deeply, and how Facebook can play a role in both.

  • headphonaught says:

    I have a love/hate thing going with Facebook…

    I love the fact I can keep in touch with a group of friends who I have met / interacted with or (minority) know through blogs etc. Its a “goto” place for this – one stop shop, if you will.

    What I hate is some of the childish apps that friends send on… I don’t want an aquarium or some ninja status. Fun but meaningless.

    My biggest bug bear, however, is the closed nature of the app. I have friends on bebo and I wish I could interact with them without having to create a bebo page… same with myspace… I can’t comment because I’m not in. I wish there were some way of opening them all up… kind of like an “adium” app but instead of IM… for social networks.

    Hope that makes sense?

    T

  • Headphonaught says:

    Hey Noah… Not sure if you’ve seen this:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6944653.stm

    The skinny is… Internet law professor Michael Geist says the walled gardens of social networks should be pulled down. Backs up the point I made above.

    Keep it up, buddy.

    Thomas
    Glasgow, Scotland

  • headphonaught says:

    Hey buddy… me again…

    Have you seen this:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6949473.stm

    Facebook and Bluetooth interaction. “The ambition for the Facebook tool is to have mobile phones alert each other when in the proximity of another Facebook user who shares common interests or common friends.”

    I like this concept.

    Thomas
    Glasgow, Scotland

  • MJM says:

    I’m not a Facebook or MySpace user, as I prefer to keep my private life, well, private. Both professionally and as a volunteer for industry and not for profit causes, I’ve found LinkedIn to be an outstanding resource. I participate frequently on targeted discussion lists on topics of business and personal interest. And I think the live/online networking of Meetup is great.

    But do I really care whether or not some old boyfriend wants to check out my picture to see if I gained or lost weight? Or what music I’m listening to? Naaaaaaaah. So I stick to more specific social opportunities, and I’ve been promising myself to start a blog for years.

  • Andy says:

    I think that facebook bluetooth thing is a bit stupid. It’s all good in regard to exploring new ways to interact blah blah, but my reasons for dismissing this are:

    1. Everyone (nearly) is on facebook so it’ll be flashing every two seconds
    2. These days we all like everything (i.e. music tastes less easily categorised than ten yrs ago) so ‘similar interests’ doesn’t mean much
    3. It would be no less awkward to approach a stranger just because you’ve read something about them

    I anticipate some disagreement from less cynical folk, but perhaps my overall observation is that I’m beyond the age range that this kind of thing (a bit like Dodgeball) will be relevant to.

  • Jamie Coomber says:

    Great post Noah.

    Personally I think on one hand it is a great tool to forge deeper relationships with contacts both with friends and more increasingly on a professional level. In terms of friends, it allows you to keep up your friendship when absent for example, when you haven’t seen friends for a while and when you finally do meet up it is like you have never been apart as you have more insight into what they have been up to and what their current interests are.

    In terms of a professional level, the most attractive quality is being able to put a personality behind the person. It offers that little insight into their private lives without being too intrusive.

    That said however, do I think Facebook has longevity? Probably not more than a couple of years as the newer more exciting social network lurks round the corner. Unfortunately this became more apparent to me when my 22 year old exec. told me that he no longer uses Facebook as it has become too mainstream and doesn’t actually want to add any `work contacts’ to his friend list because that is only for himself and his friends to share their drunken shenanigans which not only got me thinking about how it’s boom is effecting the 1st generation user, but also left me feeling very old!

    I do think that Facebook has touched on some Twitter ground with the capability of updating your status via both your computer and mobile which with the increasing popularity of Facebook is becoming the method of choice however, until they break the boundaries of having to use your mobile to access the site as opposed to simply sending a message a la Twitter, Twitter will not become obsolete just yet.

    I am more increasingly starting to regard Facebook like a high maintenance friend when I don’t have time to check it every hour and then receive messages asking why I haven’t accepted an event invitation!

    I think that for the next wave of social networks to add something different to the current model, they will need to address the likelihood of having multiple segments within a users extended network. For example, a school network, and friends network and a business network all connected to the one user, but with slightly different profiles which will also enable to management of communication through the network to become easier.

    I think i’m done….. ;-)

  • range says:

    Hey Noah,

    I’ve only recently joined Facebook, after my wife’s and friend’s insistent queries. I honestly don’t spend that much time on it, but since I moved to Taiwan last year from Montreal Canada, it has helped me reconnect with some old friends.

    The trouble is that most of my friends are French speakers, and there aren’t that many French speakers on Facebook. I would like to see the demographics on Facebook users.

    The other thing that I thought of was the marketing and the ad sales that have started. Is Facebook just going to become another way of pimping products?

  • ross says:

    Its annoying now that all these “old” people are on there..

  • missmookie says:

    Just glancing about here…and reading the first part of the first comment. I actually think Facebook is like the Mac of social networking sites, whereas MySpace is…well, the PC? Facebook’s look is clean and crisp, so the design, even though not truly customizable, does say something about appearance. It’s uncluttered (to a point, depending on how many apps you have) and people can’t put hideous graphics on your page.

    I agree with this person who said Facebook is about content. I joined a while ago, but lately find myself ‘meeting’ like-minded people, having curious discussions, and contributing to group comment boards.

    But speaking of content, MySpace recently launched their MySpace Fashion Channel. (I talk about it in my blog.) So here they’re upping the ante and giving users (and maybe potential users) something more to look forward to, other than just MySpace stalking.

    One more note – I didn’t join Facebook because all of my friends were on it. I think I joined because an acquaintance was on and I was curious. Some of my friends (who mostly fall in the 25-28 range) are dropping MS for FB. I joined MS a few yrs ago and am beginning to tire of it. I just can’t let go yet…hahaha…must ween off MySpace.

  • carmen says:

    facebook was originally meant for university/college students. it’s a great tool to keep in touch but it turned sour as soon as the general public got on, it was such a waste, now you have 13-year-old girls flaunting what they have and what not. the youngsters can’t handle it, they are too immature for it. it should be put back for just university/college students, it was alot safer then as well, because they had to use their school email adress. facebook was really simple before and now they just ruined it with the gifts, paint and what not.

    lets keep myspace for the general public, not facebook.

  • ashley tavolacci says:

    i think facebook sucks. i may be the only one out of millions of people who thinks so. but myspace is starting to suck also. So dont feel bad, face book creator. by the way i liked the movie and how you created this when you was drunk, how come a lot of people get their ideas from being under the influence, but yet, alcohol and drugs are bad for you? I just think someone needs to come out with a brilliant site. facebook is just plain and all about the “likes”. While myspace has turned into more of a “listen to my music” page. (and has too many commercials and ads). Borrrrinng.

  • Annette says:

    Incredіble pоіnts. Solid argumеntѕ.
    Кeep up the amazing work.

    Нeгe is mу wеb blog – Annette

  • Tammy says:

    I just deactivated my Facebook, it’s a joke, it’s a distraction and I personally think people needs to go back to calling people. using the phone get a hold of friends, Facebook you have no privacy there is no security , it’s very easy for people hack peoples accounts. I will not go back to it get smart people go back and using the telephone save yourself

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