Kent Newsome has a blog post entitled Educating Kent: Facebook where he asks

I have a genuine question.

What is so much better about Facebook (and MySpace and other similar platforms) than an ordinary blog on a popular platform- say WordPress?

I would love it if someone could explain this to me.

As someone who's worked on a blogging/social networking service for the past two and a half years I have some perspective on why social networking sites are more popular than blogs (i.e. more people have a social network profile than a traditional "blog").

MY ANSWER: Social networking sites [especially Facebook] take better advantage of the human need to communicate by leveraging the following trends that became obvious once blogging took off

  1. Personal publishing is more than just text, it spans all media. Videos, music and photos are just as important for people to share as is text. Traditional blogging tools/services like WordPress and Blogger have not taken advantage of this fact.

  2. People like to be informed about what is going on in their circle of friends (i.e. social networks). Bloggers tend to do this by subscribing to RSS feeds in their favorite RSS reader. Unfortunately, subscribing to RSS feeds has and always will be a fairly cumbersome means to satisfy this need regardless of how many browsers, email clients and Web sites add RSS reading functionality. On the other hand, a model where subscription is automatic once a user declares another user as being of interest to them (e.g. adding them as a friend) as opposed to locating and subscribing to their RSS feed is easier for users to adopt and use. In addition, integrating the process of keeping abreast of updates from "friends" into an existing application the user is familiar with and uses regularly is preferable to introducing a new application. I like to call this the LiveJournal lesson.

The above phenomena are the reason that MSN Spaces Windows Live Spaces grew to having over 100 million unique visitors less than two years after it first showed up. MSN Spaces was one of the first major personal publishing sites to place publishing of other media (e.g. photo albums) on the same footing as blogging/creating a journal. This was a big hit with users and the service followed up with tools for embedding music and videos, however we didn't provide media hosting or a library of content which users could choose from. These mistakes weren't made by MySpace which thanks to its widget platform could rely on services like PhotoBucket and YouTube to provide both media hosting and a library of content for users to share. Now MySpace is one of the most popular sites on the Web.

The second major reason for the initial success of MSN Spaces Windows Live Spaces lies in its integration with Windows Live Messenger . The key aspect of this integration was the gleams feature which was described as follows by Paul Thurrott in his review of MSN Messenger 7

Additionally, when you click on your own display picture in Messenger 7.0, your Contact Card displays (Figure). This small window provides a range of personal information and links to other MSN services. You can access other users' Contact Cards by clicking their picture in the main Messenger window (Figure). But Messenger 7.0 takes this capability a bit further with another new feature called a gleam, that visually reminds you when one of your contacts has updated their MSN Spaces blog or other personal information. Gleams appear as small orange stars next to contact pictures in the main MSN Messenger window (Figure).

With gleams, the act of adding someone as an IM buddy also subscribes you to getting updates about changes on their Windows Live space. Our users loved it. In hindsight, where we dropped the ball is that it isn't much of a stretch to imagine a Web interface which summarizes these updates from your friends so you can access it from anywhere not just your IM client. In addition, it is also lame that we don't provide details of the nature of the update inline and  instead require users to click on the contact card to tell which of their friends information has changed. Once you add those two features, you've pretty much got Twitter (text only) and the Facebook News Feed which have both turned out to be big hits on the Web.

To recap, social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook are better bigger than blogging sites because they enable people to connect, communicate and share with each other in richer and easier ways than blogging does.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007 12:21:01 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I think one major factor beyond is the self describing nature of these sites; My Space does it quite crudely (but benefits from critical mass and some good key features) facebook does it quite slickly; with passive notification of other user's actions (notes, photos, forum/group posts, friend additions, details changes) meaning that there is a rolling ticker of what's happening (seeing people become friends with people you know and then being able to link in as well is quite compelling and almost viral).

Live Spaces hasn't broken from it's MSN profile roots yet; having guest book entries, gadgets, friends and alert style notifcations are all good but it still lacks that level of linkage between users and social groupings (forums, schools, work etc...). It also lacks the same type of clear separation between profile (people seeing in) and home (you seeing out).
Lex Mitchell
Wednesday, May 30, 2007 1:32:45 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Y'know, I just took a glance around at the few Live Spaces I read (due to their technical/aussie blogger nature) and the few people I bother looking at on MySpace.

The thing that stands out to me is that Live Spaces much more resembles a blog.

Sure you've got photos, feeds, whatever gadgets you add - but right down the middle of most Live Spaces sites I've seen is the blog entries.

Whereas Myspace cuts those out and just provides the headline - read if you're interested.

The thing that takes up most of a myspace page is the user comments. The more social aspect of the site where I've seen people bicker back and forth between their myspace pages, or left a friendly little message for someone they admire.

Out of the few Live Spaces that I've travelled, I haven't seen anything like that. I gather from the previous poster that it has Guest book entries... but if I have a friend on there would I really want to sign a "guest" book?

Nope, I want to just jot a note for a buddy... a nice little AJAX "hey dude!" message.

Thats the social aspect I don't see happening on Spaces. They're more about "me" rather than more about "who's visiting me".

The most I usually see is a comment form on a blog entry, where I am expected to fill out and conform to the topic.

To be honest, I have never thought about Live Spaces being a "social" site at all.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007 6:04:29 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
two and a half years? wow. talk about a grizzled veteran.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007 10:39:45 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
"social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook are better bigger than blogging sites because they enable people to connect, communicate and share with each other in richer and easier ways than blogging does..."

I agree with you totally.

However, let me add that some social networking sites also allow users to collaborate much better than blogging currently does. Put differently, social networking sites provide an environment that fosters vibrant communities.
Comments are closed.