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
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
Blogger have not taken advantage
of this fact.
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
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
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.