Early impressions on Facebook

Facebook has been the hot networking site for quite some time now. Founded in 2004 by a teenager, this same teenager, Mark Zuckerberg, is now 23, has no degree, and is about 2300 times richer than I will ever be. (No, I am not bitter.)

Some colleagues asked me to join facebook today. My friends from MyDYO Inc. are there too. So I joined. Here are my impressions.

  • The ads feel out-of-place. As a disclaimer, my blog is not any prettier, but I do not have millions and millions to spend on graphical design.
  • It is far more popular than I expected. It seems that about 50% of everyone I know is on facebook. Including many people who do not have a web presence.
  • Oddly, people seem to assume that the data put there is private.
  • It is a walled garden. As far as I can tell, there is no way to share content through URIs without having visitors log into facebook. Not very RESTful. However, the application is very responsive.
  • The search engine appears very limited. Running Google through this data would be much more fun!
  • The first few minutes are fun. Finding out that you are more connected than you thought is always pleasing. However, I cannot see why I would spend much time in a walled garden where most of the content seems to be your list of friends you have no seen in years? There is a reason why I have forgotten all these names… I am busy.
  • There is clearly a viral effect at work, but I do not understand why it would work better than with other networking sites I tried.
  • I quickly browsed the applications. According to Seb, this is where the real value lies. And indeed, I was impressed. Thinking a bit more about it, I think that facebook serves as a form of OpenID: you sign on to facebook once and you can automagically use a large number of applications without having to create several accounts and reenter the same data, again and again. I see no reason why we can’t have an open-world non-proprietary facebook, other than the fact that we have not yet managed to get OpenID off the ground.

See also my post Academic blogging: why still bother?

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Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the Université du Québec (TELUQ).

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