Let me start in saying that I feel Facebook is the freshest and most genius site to come along in a long time. There really is ‘genius at work’ going on.
Since they opened it up to anyone and everyone it has grown in popularity immensely and is now crossing into Canada, the UK, South Africa and elsewhere. In the last couple of months, the number of users has doubled.
If you don’t yet think that you need to be on Facebook then consider this a very firm ‘wink’ that you do. It’s where all the action is and will almost certainly help reconnect you with old friends and find new people (and new distribution outlets) too.
If like me you were put off by the spam-a-minute MySpace and its still ridiculously pathetic search facility then you’ll be very pleased to know that Facebook has nailed both these issues. Use of the site is a pleasure in comparison to MySpace.
Everything on Facebook is executed brilliantly and nowhere more is this obvious than the recent ‘mixing desk’ addition for adjusting the frequency and substance of your newsfeed content from friends.
Facebook is a much better and more grown up MySpace, and as a ‘social utility’, to connect you with old friends and keep you connected with existing ones, it fulfills its mandate brilliantly. Post some photos of your recent holiday, friends will be notified, find a link that you think is interesting, share it easily with your friends – text, audio or video.
Facebook’s recent opening up of its site to outside developers means that new applications are coming along thick and fast, although I question the ramifications of this down the road. Facebook has a reputation for delivering in-house applications that ‘just work’ – they must have been sorely tempted to stay a closed system like Apple.
Growth of the site is mind-blowing. According to Compete.com they’ve grown 33% in the last couple of months to 20 million users. According to Alexa, which tracks better for global trends, they’ve doubled in size in the same period.
But Facebook and all social networking sites for that matter face a growing problem – the problem of fashion.
Social networking sites by their very nature are trend based. They can be fashionable for a bit, but after a while a new one comes along which is cooler. Switching between two social networking applications is becoming a right of passage, ‘you’re still using Friendster? That’s so last year’.
Facebook have partly addressed this by pitching their offering as an application – a social utility. This is smart on their part, but by itself may not be enough to save them in the long run. The truth of the matter is that once you get over the initial euphoria of finding old friends, and becoming comfortable with the actual number of friends you have listed, your use of the site dwindles. Friendster faced this problem and has fallen by the wayside. Bebo, after initially even more explosive growth than Facebook, has now levelled off and is treading water.
So does this mean social networking sites are no different from trendy nightclubs or this season’s clothes? To an extent yes. Websites have entered the world of fashion by exposing the site we use most to our friends.
It may well be that social networking sites transcend all this by continuing to offer genuine utility or huge lock in. MySpace is still huge, but that’s because of the heavy customization it allows its users which Facebook has stayed clear from, and its URL structure. Users of MySpace are less likely to switch to another site than users of Facebook – there’s more investment. Facebook almost makes it too easy.
Be interesting to see how it all pans out…