Tag Archives: operating system

Facebook – the social operating system

Has it ever happend to you that someone has told you about something, and the next day another tells you about it, and then another.

ZuluZulu was told about Facebook last week. And again. And then I got an invitation to join.

So I joined Facebook last week. Now I have a MySpace, Flickr, Digg, YouTube, Muti, Blik account, but never have I found signing up and finding friends so easy. As you use it, its simplistic power wonders and charms. It’s the social networking site of social networking sites. A meta web 2.0 site.

And then today on the Tube I read Jeff Jarvis’ always excellent Media Guardian column. It was about, you guessed it – Facebook.

What is Facebook’s secret sauce? I think it starts with identity. On the otherwise anonymous and pseudonymous internet, this is a place where real identity matters: I use my name and I associate with people whom I actually know. Soon after I started, I got invitations from strangers and asked my blog readers about the etiquette of responding. I was told that, in school, one accepts all invitations, because you are all in the same institution and it’s rather like an arms race; school is, after all, a popularity contest. But we newcomer adults already seem to be developing a rule (borrowed from the similar business site LinkedIn) that we should befriend only those we know; it is an endorsement. So we are the masters of of our identities and our communities, which establishes trust. I think internet users have been yearning for such control.

What struck me is that one of the peculiar successes is how Facebook somehow gets you to send messages to friends that are in your email address book that you normally never message. Why? Perhaps because it’s a more social, easier, friendlier environment than an email interface.

Facebook has two other incredible features which Jarvis explains:

Next, Facebook introduced what it calls a newsfeed, filled with simple updates about what your friends have done on the service: one posted a photo, another a video, two more befriended the same person, four others started using a feature.

…it is not news as we know it, but it has news value: if four friends I respect start using a program, that’s good enough reason for me to look at it. As one blogger said, this isn’t the wisdom of crowds but the wisdom of my crowd. It is like the talk around the cracker barrel in a frontier general store: the protonews of my small society.

But Facebook is also becoming a programming platform.

That is, it enables anyone to create applications on top of the service. Already there are scores of aps hooking up users’ information with other services such as calendars, maps, chat, music, news, shopping, and much more. Every media, entertainment and web company needs to figure out how Facebook can help their communities. It is not just about widgetising content – the latest web 2.0 fad – but about people doing things together.

Zuckerberg’s ambition for Facebook -which he has so far refused to sell, even though it is said he has been offered more than $1bn – is nothing less than for it to become the social operating system of the web, the Google of people.

MySpace eat your heart out.

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