Can I be honest with you. No I mean really. It’s hard for me to understand the appeal of using facebook on a daily addictive basis. I like to think I have my finger on the pulse of what’s hot and why, but some things just slip past me and facebook is one of them.
I can’t really understand why this website got so popular as a daily addiction for people. I mean I see people at work on it all the time throughout the day and I can only wonder what the hell they’re doing the whole time.
It does have some nice features. The photo galleries for instance and the way you can comment on pretty much anything. But everytime I log in my home screen is filled with a ton of crap. This person gave this person a teddy bear, this person wants me to take an action hero quiz, another person wants to invite me to an event on the other side of the country, et cetera, et cetera. I mean what is all this crap? Why the hell does anyone even want to deal with it?
Not to mention facebook seems to have an idenity crisis on its hands. It seems to want to be a more complex and bloated version of twitter. Its’ means of organizing content seems to be all over the place.
Is this what the internet is turning into? Sites like facebook and twitter being the big guns everyone is turning too.
I can sort of understand the appeal of twitter, although I’m not a big fan.
Let me just recap the history of these two sites for you:
Twitter started as a service for sending mass text messages from your phone out to all your friends. Overtime the site exploded to the point where more people now use the web interface then their phones. So what started as a way of telling all your friends what club you are at, has turned into a microblogging site where people go around telling each other what they’re doing all day long. As well as a way to collect and dispense major world news events. To some degree I can respect that. People twittering about things they see going on.
Even major celebirties are getting in on the action.
For a while there one could wonder if celebrities even knew what the internet was, let alone whether they ever got on the damn thing. Blogs have existed for well over a decade. Yet most celebrities have remained fairly low key on the internet. It seemed to take a site like twitter to bring them out into the light. ???
Facebook on the other hand started as a sort of online version of paper facebooks that college students receive to get to know other people around campus when they first get to college. When it first began you needed to have a .edu email address in order to sign up. The only way to get one of those was to belong to a university. The point was that you would sign up and then join your universities network as a way to get to know other people around school.
Over time facebook opened its membership up to everyone, allowing people to join networks based not just on colleges and universites, but also grade schools, employers, cities and so on.
Then came the open API, a way for other developers to create applications for facebook. This is where all these hugs and teddy bears and quizes come from. People ran wild with that shit.
As twitter gained in popularity, facebook flexed its format in an attempt to jump on the microblogging craze. Yet this hasn’t slowed down twitter any.
Fun fact: Facebook is the largest photo hosting site on the internet. All those people throwing up their snapshots into galleries for their friends to see.
So where’s my beef with these two sites? Well I honestly thought we’d see something better by now. Back in the days of the dot com boom the internet was filled with personal home pages featuring blogs and guestbooks and lots of flashing gif images of unicorns, skulls and shit. We haven’t seemed to evolve much past that in ten years. The only thing that’s changed is that these sites have gotten a little more interactive. The guest books have turned into microblogs, the blogs have disappeared and the gifs have turned into gifts. Aren’t things supposed to be even better then that by now?
I’m going to give Twitter a free pass for now. Just because it seems to be somewhat useful for reporting news and its tie in with cell phones makes its limitations all the more understandable. However facebook isn’t getting off that easy.
Facebook just seems to be a bit of mess. Its desire to chase after twitter reminds me of a cow trying to run a race against a cheetah (forget for the moment that the cheetah would eat the cow). The point remains that facebook is a larger lumbering site jam packed with all kinds of.. well… crap. Whereas twitter is a lean, simple text based microblogging site meant to be backward compatible with even the cheapest SMS based cell phones (aka the $20 specials at walmart).
I’m jut not thrilled with facebook. For one, it seems to completely ignore the concept of long form blogging as we’ve known it. Partly because it’s chasing after the microblogging craze of twitter.
It also seems to completely ignore the fact that social networks are supposed to be about meeting people. Not just people you already know in real life, but people you don’t know. Although it allows you to set your profile for anyone to view, by default it’s set it to a locked position where only an invite can let you gain a glimpse into someone elses life.
Most people never unlock their profiles. Is this because people don’t want other people to see their profiles? I highly doubt it. Psychological studies have been done that show that people are naturally lazy. What they are given is usually what they stick with, even if it’s only a simple two click step to change that. I can prove this to you by offering myspace as a reference, where by default peoples profiles are set to unlocked. As you can guess, most people, don’t lock their profiles there.
Now I know this is a debatable issue. Many people will say “I like the closed, invite only method facebook uses.” Indeed this is popular, mainly among females who also happen to be the more likely candidates to lock their profiles on myspace. But this has more to do with the nature of facebook and myspace then it does anything else. We can look at xanga as another reference in which most people (females included) leave their profiles unlocked. So why is this? It’s the format, the nature of the site. That’s why. Sites like facebook and myspace tend to promote quick interactions whereas sites like xanga offer more lengthy conversation in the form of traditional blogging. As a result people get to know each other better and tend to interact more like they would in a coffee shop than a booty bar, which is sort of what myspace is the online equivelent of. Facebook seemed to avoid this by locking itself down and maybe it’s better for that. But perhaps it could think up a better way.
So after thinking about this, here are a few of my suggestions of how facebook could improve itself.
1. Offer traditional blogging and allow other facebook members (whether friends or not) to comment on those blogs by default. With the users choice to restrict their blog entries to specific friends groups if they want.
2. Allow people to categorize their friends into groups and control the permission of those groups better. Best friends, friends, co-workers, dating, hobby club members, ect. Giving you the ability to put even the same person into multiple groups if desired.
3. Create more productive applications then just quizes and flash games. With the power of an entire network of people at their finger tips I could see facebook being used for a lot more collabrative projects. Imagine people collaborating on blog entries together that turn into books or screenplays. Or people organizing real world projects through online facebook calendars, checklists and to-do lists.
4. Design a better video hosting video feature akin to youtube. Allowing those videos to be public, private or for certain friends groups only.
5. Create a dating subsystem that allows people to keep a separate profile for dating purposes that remains hidden from family or friends if desired. As in family or friends searching the dating lists won’t ever see that you’re listed.
6. Allow you to see updates on your home screen based on certain friends groups and certain content types. As in “I want to see only videos from my group labled ‘best friends'”.
7. Allow a little bit of customizing. Not crazy HTML chaos like myspace, but more controlled themes.
8. Most of all, organize all of this content better and stop chasing twitter.
Of course, all of this said, what do I know? I’m not the running the most popular social networking site on the internet. Maybe I just haven’t found the perfect social network yet. If such a thing would ever exist. But to this day nobody has developed a social site that is a perfect blend of sites like facebook, youtube, xanga and deviant art. Not yet anyway. ;)