Facebook and other 'social networks'

FacebookFacebook is my favourite 'online social network'.
What a statement - and what the hell does it mean???

Let's work backwards. My definition of 'online social network':
A type of Website that let's you hookup all your friends/enemies thus enabling you a simple 'network' that you can click your way through.

Wikipedia's far more verbose 'social network service' definition starts with:
A social network service focuses on the building and verifying of online social networks for communities of people who share interests and activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others, and which necessitates the use of software.

That's it ... nothing more, nothing less.

Next question - why would you use one?
Weeeell, there's a few reasons - you might want to keep a track of people over time (who's "in", who's "out"). You might want to try and trace down old flames (Friends Reunited). You might want to try and hook into another persons network to get a job (LinkedIn).

Mostly though a list of names connected together isn't that exciting and you'll probably want to do more than connect people. You'll want to find a reason to connect people and then get those people to give you more info to satisfy that need.

For instance, LinkedIn is an 'online social network' specifically built around the IT industry and connecting people for two reasons; 1) Get a new job, 2) Get work when in the new job. It connect people (as they all do) but also asks you to fill in your previous work details, where you work now, what your skills are, recommendation's for people you've worked with etc etc. All this content is aimed at 1) getting a new job, 2) getting work when in the new job.

There are many 'online social networks' and Wikipedia has a cracking list.
I would also start with the list of 'online social networks' I belong to:
View Mike Riversdale's profile on LinkedIn Image hosted by Photobucket.com Image hosted by Photobucket.com Friends Reunited Friendster MySpace NZ Bebo last.fm 43Things Yahoo! 360

And that brings me back to Facebook is my favourite 'online social network'.

Why Facebook? Because of exactly what Marc Andreessen (he of the original browser) states:
On May 24, Facebook launched the newest version of the Facebook Platform, a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) and services that allow outside developers to inject new features and content into the Facebook user experience.


Metaphorically, Facebook is providing the ease and user attraction of MySpace-style embedding, coupled with the kind of integration you see with Firefox extensions, with the added rocket fuel of automated viral distribution to a huge number of potential users, and the prospect of keeping 100% of any revenue your application can generate.

And because of that openness and 'platform' approach it has the feel of being a living, stretching, changing place. This isn't something I've experienced with the other 'online social networks' and Facebook, for me, has a more natural feel - I'm more likely to convince Liz to use this than any other.

The natural feel about it is quite hard to define - but here goes:
... it's not just somewhere to put up content (words, pictures of videos) but somewhere that is like a pub ... or church, living room, tea room or whatever else you define as community place. You can pop in, see what others have been up to, have a natter, and leave sticky notes for those not online. With the ever growing "add-ons" that are deeply embedded into Facebook it can be whatever you want it to be.

If only I had more of my mates in it. And that brings me back to the real world!
My mates are generally off line type people.
They don't use RSS. They use Google search.
They don't use blogs. They use email.
They don't use 'online social networks'. They meet in the pub.

Whilst it's the best 'online social network' I have to say, it's only a Website and real (touchable, meaningful and 'deep') life still happens offline.


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