Exactly What Is That Billy Goat Up To?

Are you on Facebook? Do you compulsively
log on every day? At all hours? Is the site always open in your browser? Set as
your home page??

How can one explain the remarkable success
of this umpteenth social network? Is it timing? A masterful technical
deployment? Ease of use? The non-stop, abundant flow of info on even the
slightest movements among one’s entourage? Or simply luck? Could it have as
easily been any other of the hundreds (no, thousands) of sites vying for your
attention and that of your friends? Who knows? In any case, it’s a runaway success.

I’m only connected to a dozen or so
friends, but already on my home page I can follow a continual stream of newly
posted photos and images, track relationships in the making (or unmaking), view
profile updates, follow fluff messages or plug into useful exchanges, or join
improbable groups, like the “I flip my pillow over so I can feel the cold
side when I’m sleeping” group, or the ever-popular and grammatically
challenged “If the End of the World was announced by Melissa Theuriau, I’ll
die happy” group.

You can easily connect every half hour and
find new updates
. With more friends, make that
every few minutes. It’s a little like gazing out a window and following the
action on a street where only your friends pass, an insider’s view into what
your friends think and feel, and what they want.

What’s more, there is a whole host of
plug-n-play applications you can add to your Facebook home page to move from
gazer to player (some developed by Facebook and other by partners). Say you
belong to the group “Brits in New York.” You could already exchange messages with
members of this group, but now you can plug in the Calendar app and organize a
meet-up with Newcastle fans at Nevada Smiths. Plug in the Slideshows app, and you can share videos of
your Newcastletonians Night Out. And not happy with your latest Profile pic?
Touch it up with the app Picnik. The possibilities are endless. Are you still
going to need your buggy old OS? You, yes. But your kids?

Now some of my professional contacts have
started to send me Facebook connection requests. All’s fine and well when the
network is confined to your web geek friends, but imagine what dilemmas await
as the networks spread. Do you really want to leave up that photo of you
rollerblading in the leopard thong?

With that cautionary anecdote noted, the
consent-based social networks of Facebook are considerable and seem useful for
all sorts of purposes:

  • Small Ads: I could privilege ads coming from my close contacts, those whom I trust most, followed by those from members of my groups, etc. (This is also the approach used by Microsoft’s “Live Expo” in leveraging your MSN contacts.)
  • Professional networking: I could explore jobs and partnerships and maintain client contacts. All that you can do on LinkedIn or Viadeo.
  • Travel: I could better choose destinations, hotels, windsurfing
    spots, tour operators and airlines.
  • News: I could more easily sift through the endless news stories available on the Net by filtering them for those read or recommended by my contacts, or maybe even just those contacts with whom I share particular interests.
  • Dating: This is already in place and well-used, judging from the categories available for one’s Profile: “Single”, “In a Relationship”, “In an Open Relationship” (?!), “Engaged”, “Married”, or “It’s Complicated”; and those that describe what you’re looking for: “Friendship”, “A Relationship”, “Dating”, “Random Play”, or “Whatever I can get”.
  • Net Searching: Will Google be rendered obsolete one day by a yet-to-be-invented “social search” application? An application that responds better to exploratory requests like “What are the best vegan restaurants in Queens?” or “What’s the best way to break up with my girlfriend?” Yahoo Answers and the now defunct Google Answers have tried to address this challenge, but a real community aspect is needed for this to truly work, and Facebook has the most well connected communities on the Net…

Certain oracles even see Facebook
dethroning Yahoo and Google altogether one day …And you? What’s your Facebook
prediction? A soft fading into the sunset as with Friendster? Why? Perhaps you
find terrifying the phenomenal quantity of information and photos available to
Facebook and all the partner applications for whatever purposes are deemed