Speaking of crack, I’ve been spending too much time on Facebook lately. I’ve been on a number of social-networking sites; Facebook impresses me the most. Here’s why:
Design. Really, really clean user interface, responsive servers. Tribe was schizophrenic, MySpace a renowned mess. The only really poorly designed aspect: the groups. There’s something wrong, design-wise, if there can be more than a hundred Steve Irwin memorial groups, all with the same name and group icon, with fewer than five members each. Regional networks seem to be a problem with some of my friends, especially if they’re near, but not in, the appropriate network. I’m in rural Quebec, but I’m in the Ottawa network: it’s the nearest one. People in Gatineau should be in the Ottawa network. People near Toronto should be in the Toronto network unless they’re closer to Barrie, Hamilton or Kingston.
Privacy. Most social networks are binary: see everything or see nothing. Facebook is network-based: it’s a series of regional, school and work networks. You can control which networks see your full profile. You can control what information appears on your full profile. You can control which of your friends sees your full profile and which sees a “limited” profile.
People. I never had more than a handful of friends on other networks, most of whom I’d never met in person — or I’d signed them up to the service myself. This is the first network I’ve encountered where the network effect is in full force: when you sign up, you will find that many of your friends are already there. At the moment I have 43 friends, all of whom I’d at least exchanged e-mails a few times with, and all but two of whom I’ve previously met in person.
Friend management. Tribe has degrees of separation; in most other social-networking sites the friend feature is binary — you’re a friend, or you’re not — or graded (contact vs. friend or family on Flickr). Facebook asks how you know a person. That encourages — at least in me — a sort of social taxonomy. You end up trying to find — collect, really — friends from all aspects and periods of your life, and mark them up: this one I went to high school with, that one I was in a club with for a couple of years. Filling in your social timeline can get a little compulsive, but it has the happy effect of encouraging reconnections with people that, in my case, I haven’t seen in more than 15 years.
As for my Facebook profile, you won’t be able to see it unless you’re in the Ottawa network, or if we’ve added each other as friends.