FACEBOOK SPECIAL (part 1)
- how could i resist...
When Facebook opened up its platform to independent developers in May, it became a hotbed for hungry startups eying the network's rapidly expanding base of 31 million members.
Instead of being a mere social network, Facebook's aim is to create a social operating system where e-commerce can thrive.
How has it's success been driven so far? Can something be too popular?
There was a huge market: Until the start of Facebook’s peak, social networking sites had largely been targeted and adopted by an older demographic. Friendster.com was largely popular with the twenty-something’s, not students. What’s more, in 2004, Friendster was on its downturn from the market, and Myspace was not the phenomenon it was today. There was a whole enormous youth market segment that hadn't had that experience, and Facebook captured it.
The Experience was designed for college students, by college students: The site was designed by members of the demographic it served. The youth perspective informs every facet of the site; had Zuckerberg been answering to a 30 year old manager, or a 45 year old CEO, the site would have been different.
Privacy: Beyond the market segment and the experiential aspects of the site, the fact Facebook walled networks was its most critical component. That the students could create their profiles for their audience (other students on their campus), and for their audience only created trust in the site. It also created behaviour that made the site viral - students were incentivized to create profiles for each other, rather than for the world at large. As Zuckerberg notes in a New Yorker article, the privacy is largely false - but for most students, the privacy is good enough.
Socio-economic motives: People commonly cite the fact that Facebook was started at Harvard as a factor in its success - that these ivy league students proved tastemakers for the rest of the country/world. Sure, this may have been a slight motive very early on in the rollout process, but I do not believe it is a critical factor. However, there are critical socio-economic factors tied into Facebook. First, the class of student who used Facebook was, and to a large extent still is, a unique subset of the youth market. That is to say, initially they were the privileged class of youths who could attend a four-year college. Facebook represented a place where they and their like friends could be found. Facebook allowed these like clusters to be transplanted virtually, into a members-only place. Compared to a Myspace or Friendster, where you're forced into the pile with everyone else, this made the initial adoption of a ‘social networking site’ much easier for members of this socio-economic class. As Facebook expanded, taking on colleges further down in US News rankings, it was a class effect that elevated the perceived status of membership, one that continues today.
Features and the Experience:
There are a number of features Facebook incorporated that made the service sticky. Here are the most important
Feature: Organization by Classes. The Facebook allowed people to list their class schedules online, making them browsable. That is, if you're in English 101, Section 9, you can browse all the other profiles of students in English 101, Section 9, as you sit in English 101, Section 9. Think about how powerful this is. The kid sitting next to you who you never talk to? You know his favourite bands, his interests; you've browsed his friends and realized you actually have friends in common. This was an incredibly important part of Facebook's early success.
Feature: The Poke, or low-involvement communication. In Facebook, you can poke people. It means nothing and everything. There's no documentation for the feature, but the students got it. The poke is a way to simply place yourself on someone else’s radar, and it quickly became culturally appropriate to poke. The poke is the precursor to full communication; for students trying to figure out who its OK to talk to and not, the poke is a low-involvement way to test these waters. Low-involvement communication is a key factor of Facebook, and it really made sense in a situation where communication barriers were still being figured out.
Feature: Groups. Groups are a way to say everything or nothing about yourself. They're a fun way to come together to represent part of your identity. Mostly, though, they just gave students another fun things to browse endlessly - and you were rewarded for your wit (most group names are in-jokes).
Experience: Directory Services. Facebook is a directory. As it turns out, students need that directory to figure out how to contact each other. The directory provided by their school? Not so good. A directory like Facebook? Invaluable.
Experience: Simplicity. Facebook is a simple website. It uses common design features, uses text links for feature navigation, and the site is largely unobtrusive. It could be picked up quickly - there aren't overly complicated functions, and Facebook doesn't try to design above anyone's head.
Experience: Speed. Those of us who loathe browsing MySpace on Firefox know how important speed is. Facebook has always been lightning fast - and that has helped their brand immensely. Lets face it, when we browse a social network we want to move around frequently and rapidly. We're stumbling, not following an explicit path. Fast response enables this fun stumbling process, and the fact that Facebook has stayed consistently fast has left a very positive impression in users minds.
As Applications Blossom, Facebook Is Open for Business...The most popular application at present is the 'top friends' app.
But why? And what does this give the user?
There are many different arguements... many see huge potential in this open platform, others argue it detracts from the simplicity of the site?
Future for social networking?
............your guess is as good as mine
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