I’ve been a long-time facebook user. Dartmouth was one of the first 10 schools on the service in 2000-2001 and you could tell even back then that it was a special service. I’ve always thought it was the best social network – even as MySpace and others came around.
Facebook is a better services than other social networks simply because it has better features. Sure they have the same as a lot of sites, but they’re engineered better and they resonate with users MUCH more. Facebook features provide feedback, they portray status and most importantly, they’re social. Two of my favorite features on the facebook service are:
- Photos. Supposedly this was the feature that spurned The Platform (see below). This feature is very similar to other services like Yahoo Photos, Photobucket, etc. except with one exception – it’s social. You can tag people in your photos and when you do it – that photo shows up in that user’s profile. In the past, if a friend of yours had a photo of you, this was never identified and you would never know. Or if you see a person in a picture with your friend, you can see who that person is and click through to their profile. Facebook made photo viewing easy and made it social feature instead of just a way to enhance your profile. This caused the facebook photo sharing to be the most popular photo network on the web (or at least a close #2). Check out this article for details
- News Feed. RSS is a simple concept. It is publish/subscribe. You subscribe to get information from certain sources and updates to those sources are published to you. RSS readers are doing this for the web such as Netvibes, iGoogle, MyYahoo, and the Google Reader (which is what i use). Just as your email inbox is a place for receiving mail messages, RSS readers are a place to receive messages from the web that you’ve signed up for whether it is a blog or a website. Facebook has an activity RSS reader called “News Feed” which displays any activity of a friend of yours on your home page. Most people don’t realize it’s RSS, but that’s essentially what it is and instead of delivering web messages, it delivers your friends’ activity. That is social and this feature alone is what makes facebook better than any other social network. It is great at telling you what your friends and network is doing and that is always relevant. I also wrote about this a few weeks ago here.
Last week facebook came out with a new feature called F8 and also known as The Platform. This is a huge deal and it will change the web for millions of users. This feature allows any company to develop an application to live inside Facebook and makes it easy for any facebook user to install, share and use. With this feature, facebook is now a platform of users and friends available for any application or company to access. I repeat, this is huge. It has always been my thought that going forward social networking is a foundational attribute of the web. Any activity you do online – shopping, reading, watching videos – is enhanced if you can see what your friends are doing (or have done) and can easily share it with them. For any traditional site (BestBuy.com, Google Maps, Fandango, etc.), it could be much better if it was built into facebook and showed you what your friends had purchased, or had done, or what their opinion is. I already love using the flickr, netflix, delicious, and other facebook applications that have been created in the first week and i’m positive the quality will only get better.