…and from now on, start playing with Facebook

I finally created a Facebook account. Someone mentioned FaceBook being the new MySpace just one e-mail before Aaron (who has been working at Facebook for a couple years now) sent me an invite.

I took that as a sign from God.

Mitch: [As the voice of Jesus] …And from now on, stop playing with yourself.
Kent: It is God…
Real Genius, a Caltech favorite

Facebook graduates

Okay, this coincidence was more likely because Facebook recently opened themselves up to the rest of the world.

This gives me the opportunity to wax eloquent on the clever subdomain-based segmentation system Facebook uses: basically when they expand into a new market, they create a subdomain for it. For instance: caltech.facebook.com or plaxo.facebook.com.

The result is that the globalizing/data segmentation problem becomes much easier because the majority of your connections will occur within your subdomain-based data segment. That’s great for universities and it certainly avoids the 90,000 MySpace friends problem, but we’ll wait and see if it survives the move. There are few things to watch for:

  1. Effectiveness: How much virality will there be outside the high schools and colleges and into a company or a region (like Silicon Valley, CA)?
  2. Engineering: Will there be scaling problems as people become more connected to people outside their virtual host? Will connections get created as easily outside of colleges?
  3. Marketing: Will it gain more market share faster than it loses it’s cool college, just-passing-through cachet? (i.e. Think Starbucks trying to do fast food because McDonald’s does McCafe.)

A corollary is that stalking (search) is done only on the subdomains you belong to. This also simplifies their privacy model.

Facebook features

Aaron showed me a lot of the neat features of Facebook last year: the social timeline, the wall, etc. I won’t go into them right now, but they’re neat ideas.

Two things I don’t remember him showing me are the aggregated news feed of your friends actions on your homepage (very cool, but it’ll get crazy if you do the MySpace thing) and the mini-feed on your personal profile (makes stalking oh-so-much easier, Thanks Facebook!).

I’ll mention that the birthday optionally includes the year—something missing from Plaxo currently. On the minus side, the forums seem a little spartan in traffic, which is bad for a community site and a tad bit strange given how long the average person spends on their website (“like forever”).

BTW, Safari’s Pith Helmet does a great job blocking the annoying skyscraper ads, but it allows the not-so-annoying, but hardly-relevant targeted text ads through. This meant that it took me a little while to realize how Facebook makes money since I prefer Safari for browsing.

Oh yeah. Cool badge feature: Terry Chay’s Facebook profile

All these cool small UI features. I’d like to think the reason they can roll them out quickly is because they use PHP for the front end.

In any case, I really need to look at their API and hack something useless sometime.

Facebook tip

Here’s a neat Facebook trick to bootstrap your network without spamming it:

  1. Use a Plaxo client to get your contact information from your address book (Mac OS X, Outlook, Thunderbird) online.
  2. Use Plaxo’s IE Toolbar to get your contact information from Plaxo Online to your Yahoo! Address Book. (This is a temporary thing, a future release will make this synchronization available without the toolbar.)
  3. Go to Facebook, click on “invite” and then “Look up emails” and then type in your Yahoo! ID. (I’ve had a little trouble with this working in Safari so you might want to flip to Firefox.)
  4. The first page allows you to invite request people already on Facebook. The second page is the viral/spam step which you can ignore.


(You know, Facebook should just integrate the Plaxo Address Book Widget and skip all this crap altogether. This way you don’t need a Yahoo! or a Plaxo account.)

One more thing…

One more thing about the subdomain model. Because of it, Facebook could grow organically and neatly dodged the Friendster “grew to fast/didn’t scale thing” and the Orkut “Everyone is a Brazillian thing”.

Think about that.

Oh, and since I’m mentioning Friendster and Orkut. Someone two people I know independently mentioned to me two weeks ago that MySpace’s stats are tapering out and Orkut and Friendster are more popular than ever.

Are the cool kids looking for another party?

(Note to Alexaholic: you need an option for semi-log scaling so I can actually do a comparison in a single graph.)

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