Thursday, November 13, 2008

I am Hooked on Facebook

Facebook is one of the “killer apps” of social networking. Like so many of the great Web 2.0 applications, Facebook wasn’t created by some huge software company. Mark Zuckerberg, now the 24-year-old C.E.O of Facebook, started it in his dorm room at Harvard (in 2004) and the site quickly amassed nine million users. Initially, Facebook was restricted to college students, or at least to those with a .edu E-mail domain. It competes with MySpace and has rapidly gained popularity, especially since the .edu requirement was dropped in

As is typical of Web 2.0, social networking is at the heart of Facebook. Users can join groups (networks) organized by city, workplace, school, or hobby – or you can start your own group. For example, there is a group called NICU Nurses with hundreds of Facebook users and a new group Erlanger Health System with only a few. It is simple to add friends and send them messages, and update your own personal profile. Many Facebook people add photos or videos as well.

Facebook underwent a major upgrade a few months ago. Long-time users were upset, but I really like the new features. The biggest change was with the News Feed, a built-in service that actively broadcasts changes in a user’s page to every one of his or her friends. The News Feed has been described as “like a social gazette from the 18th century” giving one a long list of up-to-the-minute stream of everything that’s going on about their friends, around the clock, all in one place.

Frankly, Facebook can be addicting. It can also border on annoying. However, I really feel like I have been in touch with many friends and relatives in a new way that has been a lot of fun. Interestingly enough, the biggest growth for Facebook is no longer among the young. Facebook has really caught on among boomers and others. If you sign up, you can “friend” me by searching for Lawrence G. Miller and then click on “add as friend.”