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Understanding Facebook Basics

OK, after a couple of posts which discuss the impact of Facebook on the web, let’s get down to “brass tacks” here and see what Facebook is all about at the ground level. After all, like about 150,000 people do every day, I recently created a Facebook profile. On the surface, it appears like most social network sites. I have friends, comments, and we can send messages back and forth. OK, cool, but not too impressive. So, what else? How did Facebook get to be thought of as a disruptive technology ?

Facebook Opened Up

Myspace was long considered to be the leading social networking site. But, Myspace is anything but open. As many of you probably know, getting any external content into your Myspace profile is essentially an exercise in hacking the Myspace profile page. You embed a bunch of CSS and crap into the “About Me” section and overwrite the default design of the Myspace page. That seems like a hack to me.

Facebook opened up to third party developers with the release of it’s Facebook Platform. Now anybody can create Facebook applications which are embeddable into a Facebook profile. The end effect is that one’s profile is highly customizable. There is a fast growing library of Facebook applications to choose from, including things like:

  • My Questions. An app that allows you to ask questions of your friends and essentially poll them.
  • Causes. Allows you to start or join in on causes and raise money for things you care about. Very powerful for non-profits.
  • Sticky. Leave sticky notes on your friends’ profiles.

At this time, it looks like there are over 3,200 applications in the library. I added one, for example, which allows me to display my Flickr photos on my Facebook profile. But, what we have here is more than just cool, useless crap you can add to your profile. We have here a mechanism of centralizing your online identity and combining all of it into one big social network. As more and more companies release Facebook applications (and more and more will continue to do so), the possibilities open up even more. In fact, just as I was writing here, I got an email from Chitika saying they now have a Facebook app in order to see who in your network bought what and get feedback. That is using the power of your social network for shopping and reviews.

The Basic Facebook Profile

At it’s core, the Facebook profile has what you would expect of a social network profile. A welcome change from Myspace is that the profiles are clean (no more animated GIFs and loud background music). When you create a profile, you enter data about yourself as you see fit. You can then find your friends by city, school, college, or just by general search. You add them as your “friend” by simply clicking the button to do so. They will need to approve the request before you will end up as their friend on the network.

The wall is a place in the profile where you and others can post quick messages (similar to the comments on Myspace profiles).

Outside of these normal social networking functions, the rest of the system relies on the applications. You browse the apps list and you can add anything you want to your profile. The beauty of it is that it is so open. They have taken this social network site and opened it up in such a way that it can expand in infinite directions, all based on what the community does with it.

And people who follow this stuff (like me) are digging it big time. Michael Arrington, of TechCrunch, said of Facebook:

The payoff is two way. Not only do developers get deep access to Facebook’s twenty million users, Facebook also becomes a rich platform for third party applications.

Facebook’s strategy is almost the polar opposite from MySpace. While MySpace frets over third party widgets, alternatively shutting them down or acquiring them, Facebook is now opening up its core functions to all outside developers.

and Robert Scoble also got bitten by the bug.

So, go create a Facebook profile and experiment with the applications. That is where you will begin to see how the thing comes together.

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Got a Question or Comment?

  1. I don’t believe the applications are that great. Yes, the site is much cleaner than MySpace. To me, MySpace is the ugliest design for a website and allowing amatures with no visual sense to customize it is totally appalling.

    As for Facebook, since they opened it up to everyone, the whole networking aspect of it lost all meaning. When I first signed up two years ago, it was limited between friends from University and work. (They checked your email and your affiliations!) Now, you have children joining facebook and anyone making an account. Too many fake ones out there. I am not really impressed with Facebook and wondering why all the hype. It is just a cleaner social network. Well, sometimes I feel it is a dating network with guys randomly adding me expecting me to add a person from the other side of the planet to look at my pictures.

    The only thing good I found about Facebook is that you can find friends or people who you have known years ago on it. People using their first and last names is a lot better search wise.

  2. I don’t believe the applications are that great. Yes, the site is much cleaner than MySpace. To me, MySpace is the ugliest design for a website and allowing amatures with no visual sense to customize it is totally appalling.

    As for Facebook, since they opened it up to everyone, the whole networking aspect of it lost all meaning. When I first signed up two years ago, it was limited between friends from University and work. (They checked your email and your affiliations!) Now, you have children joining facebook and anyone making an account. Too many fake ones out there. I am not really impressed with Facebook and wondering why all the hype. It is just a cleaner social network. Well, sometimes I feel it is a dating network with guys randomly adding me expecting me to add a person from the other side of the planet to look at my pictures.

    The only thing good I found about Facebook is that you can find friends or people who you have known years ago on it. People using their first and last names is a lot better search wise.

  3. Well, it is a SOCIAL network, so the whole idea of limiting it to a clique would make no sense. Besides, just as is the case in the real world, you can choose who you surround yourself with (as in, make a friend on Facebook). And if you don’t like them, just remove them from your friend list.

  4. Well, it is a SOCIAL network, so the whole idea of limiting it to a clique would make no sense. Besides, just as is the case in the real world, you can choose who you surround yourself with (as in, make a friend on Facebook). And if you don’t like them, just remove them from your friend list.

  5. Dan O'Hanlon says:

    You have to learn how to crawl before you can walk. This site is High Concept. 3200 “applications”? Relly? On my Facebook page I see six.

    Anyone know a page where the “Facebook basics” are basic?

  6. Dan O'Hanlon says:

    You have to learn how to crawl before you can walk. This site is High Concept. 3200 “applications”? Relly? On my Facebook page I see six.

    Anyone know a page where the “Facebook basics” are basic?

  7. thanks…check out my facebook profile

    http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=619402288&ref=profile

  8. thanks…check out my facebook profile

    http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=619402288&ref=profile

  9. I have to say I’ve only been on Facebook briefly as a social network but more and more people are telling me about it’s usefulness in business too.

    Looks like it’s time to include this in our marketing strategy!

  10. I have to say I’ve only been on Facebook briefly as a social network but more and more people are telling me about it’s usefulness in business too.

    Looks like it’s time to include this in our marketing strategy!

  11. Ron Fields says:

    On the left side of ‘my wall’ I have it set so 6 friends (out of all of them)picutres show. Are the 6 that show just part of a random loop or does it mean something else…like they were the last people to look at my profile?

  12. Ron Fields says:

    On the left side of ‘my wall’ I have it set so 6 friends (out of all of them)picutres show. Are the 6 that show just part of a random loop or does it mean something else…like they were the last people to look at my profile?

  13. Thank you about explain to understand for about Facebook . It's helpful

  14. markdrews1234 says:

    I didn't appreciate facebook until I signed up on it. Lots of helpful applications out there and lots of games, helpful for your social networking. :D

  15. markdrews1234 says:

    I didn't appreciate facebook until I signed up on it. Lots of helpful applications out there and lots of games, helpful for your social networking. :D

  16. rashmi23w says:

    Good to know all this information about something that has become such an integral part of our lives

  17. Hi Dan

    I have set up an “understanding facebook” group. I am hopeful that this will commence as a “basics” page. Want to join? – let me know http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=640342736

    • Len Thomas1943 says:

      Hello Sue,
      I’ve been on Facebook for a couple of months and all I see are messages void of thought, such as: “I had a yummy cheseburger at Wendy’s…LOL” Are there any intelligent, creative people out there that share ideas and thoughts deeper than lunch? I am an artist and musician and would like to use Facebook to increase attendance at my local gigs and also to sell artwork. I don’t have a clue on how to get started…..Help.

      Len

  18. I’ve been on Facebook for nearly a year. I’m still confused about how a friend of mine can post on my “wall” and whether all my friends can see that, and vice versa. Answering this in a way I can really grasp would be helpful. Thank.

  19. Been having serious problems figuring out the privacy settings and I’ve been at it for months now. Is there any reason that Facebook can’t write their instructions in “plain language” instead of the current double talk they’re using now ? What would be the difficulty is giving instructions in point form?

  20. I saw the first 4 videos of Chris Farell’s understanding facebook and was impressed. I would like to buy his first two modules but I cannot pay what I think they are asking which includes a small down payment anfd then something each month.  Does anybody know how I might just buy those videos. I would benefit from module 1 and 2 but nothing more than that.

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