Wednesday, June 20, 2007

FaceBook - NO B SO

*Pictures are courtesy of photographer Loucee. I was just looking for relevant pictures to accompany this post and came across her blog, and she happens to be Indonesian too. Check it out, its pretty awesome and her photographs are wikid too.

There have been numerous websites to emerge providing a medium for friends to stay in touch and/or make new friends based on similar interests in music, geographical location, or where they went to school. You might recall becoming a member on Friendster or Hi5.There are numerous sites out there that offer the possibility of getting connected and staying connected with friends, but from my experience these have turned out to be fads. People set up accounts and for the first few weeks upload numerous pictures, search for long lost friends, random hook ups, and play around with other features on the site but after a couple of months the novelty wears out and people move on. The account remains as a sort of online address book where one could refer back to every now and then for details of a person they might be looking for. Most of these sites offer the same old services with only a few new twists and it gets old fast. At least this has been my experience so far.

Most recently I was invited to join Facebook. At first I ignored the invites and then straight out rejected them but then I finally gave in and registered on their site. Immediately I started to connect with a whole lot of people I know and am in touch with on a regular basis, and some family who I am not. The whole process seemed pretty standard but more user friendly and information was more accessible than other similar sites. As I started fiddling around though I found that it was really easy to look up people just with their name and I actually started to connect with old friends very quickly. I have been on Facebook about a month now and not only have I linked up with some long lost buddies I have not seen or heard of is more than 15 years, I have also found out that friends I have now are friends with people I grew up with and have not met in at least 20 years!!! How crazy is that? I know all the other similar sites offer the same service but for some reason Facebook has worked a lot easier.

So now I have reconnected with all these old mates and I know where they are and what they are doing, maybe my account on Facebook should become stagnant like all the others. But for some reason it is not. Whereas most other sites and software use email and storage spaces to keep you up to date, on Facebook your first page after you log in is kind of like a customized newspaper. It conveniently and attractively displays all the information pertaining to YOU. What your friends have been up to, what pictures they have put up, groups they have joined, and messages they have written, really keeping you ‘in the loop’. This hassle free and inconspicuous update system is the back bone and most remarkable feature of this website. It is really the things you do not notice on the site I believe that make it successful. For example, there is no in your face advertising on Facebook, NO BANNERS AT ALL, but just because you do not see it does not mean it is not there. They do need to make a profit after all.

Facebook has taken a different approach to the whole phenomenon and is actually managing to stay young and fresh by updating their site with a barrage of new applications. The first I have to mention would be the ‘notes’ feature. If you are a blogger, you can have your blog imported hourly to Facebook and share your writing with a whole new audience. And making use of ‘feeds’ they have made the process so damn easy, all you have to do is enter the URL of your blog and they do the rest, even informing all your contacts of updates in an unobtrusive manner. This is a pretty standard application and other standard applications include the ability to leave messages on each others pages, write personal messages to one another, share photographs and share videos. Facebook has then somehow opened their doors and allowed other vendors design application that can be used on Facebook, like a map showing all the countries you have travelled displayed on your main page, courtesy of Trip Advisor, or a music sharing feature by iLike, or yet still an add on from Hot or Not! Other free applications give you the ability to engage friends in a food fight, express yourself through emoticons, and even place an interactive pet on your page. These applications are all available for free but serve as advertising for their designers. And they come up with new stuff everyday.

Another innovative medium for cash generation on Facebook has to be the ‘gift’ application. For the nominal price of only $1 you can give your friend a virtual gift which is a picture of a kiss, a dog, a flower, a pair of thong panties etc. They come up with a new gift everyday. Friends are throwing these gifts back and forth for only $1 but I wonder how much they turn over from this application alone daily! Which guy is not gonna send his chick a flower or a kiss for only $1? Some of these little pictures are even released in limited quantities to increase their demand! But they do have to make money and the kids at Facebook are damn smart about it. Facebook has also given users a great medium from which to share their causes. I have seen numerous friends make use of the events or group applications to spread awareness about movements they are involved in and informing people how they might be able to help. Seeing an ad on TV may not influence you to take part in a rally as much as seeing your friends group up to take a stand might. There are hundreds of applications on Facebook for users to explore and I will admit that on quite afternoons I dabble around trying different things on my page, seeing how they work. So overall I would say that Facebook is the best social networking website on the market, without a doubt. They are hitting it on every level and I would not be surprised if they are the next big Google buy out.

The drawbacks? The world has become too damn small. When it is so easy to be in touch with old friends you kind of take it all for granted. Seeing pictures and reading stories about what your mates have been up to in the last 10 years takes away from the experience of running into them at a bar with only fate as your guide, hearing a first hand narrative about where life has carried them. The romance of uncertainty has been replaced by mechanical reassurance, courtesy of Twentieth Century Technology. This polar conflict will always exist but I continue to make the best of worlds. The day they serve me up a virtual JD Coke is where I draw the line. That’s when I will set the wheels in motion for the KYTV revolution!

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