So I hear there’s this website called “The Facebook” that is really popular with the kids these days, and I decided to check it out…
Kidding, kidding. Of course I know what Facebook is. I’ve just been choosing not to participate. The whole “social networking” thing doesn’t offer me anything I want that I can’t already do through e-mail or by building websites. (I recognize that I am atypical in this regard).
I actually tried out Facebook back when it was university-students-only. I built a profile, linked it to my friends, and then said “Well, now what? I guess I’m done.” And I never went back. Eventually I deleted my profile, just to avoid spreading outdated information about myself.
Of course, Facebook now is not really the same application as Facebook in 2004. With over 350 million users (as many as Firefox), it forms a significant part of how many people experience the Internet, and as such it shapes their expectations for how web interfaces should look and feel, as well as how their real-life relationships should be represented in software.
This was the argument given by many of my coworkers, who told me that I ought to at least try out the modern Facebook, so that I could better understand where many of our users are coming from.
So I went to Facebook and started creating an account. I entered my first and last name and email address, and Facebook showed me a page saying “We think these people might be your friends”. There were several dozen people there who I actually know, mixed in with several dozen who I don’t.
Wait a minute, How does Facebook know who my friends are?? Remember, I hadn’t told them anything except an email address at this point. I was disturbed by how much they knew about me. More than disturbed. I was freaked out.