So it looks like Facebook is having its own little tipping point moment in New Zealand -- everyone starts talking about it, which starts everyone else talking about it and before you know it, it's Paris Hilton. One of the more interesting aspects to it is the class war that various people seem to be trying to foment between the users of it and MySpace. Supposedly MySpace is for lower class yokels and idiot teenagers, while Facebook is the preserve of the educated elite. Certainly Facebook seems a bit more mature in appearance and organization, but I don't know that that says much about its users.
Case in point: as part of my job writing documentation for a software company, I keep an eye on developments in software and website usability. This morning, I read an article on a hugely controversial development on Facebook that I hadn't been aware off (seeing as it happened a few months ago, before the site took off here). You see, on your Facebook home page there's this News Feed that has a bunch of one line summaries of all of your friends' recent activity -- Tom added a photo, Dick posted a message, Harry joined a group and so on. This saves you having to check every one of your friends' Facebook pages to keep up to date with them -- handy, no? That's what the Facebook developers thought when they unveiled it, and were therefore a little surprised when people hated it and organised protest groups with hundreds of thousands of members against it.
Why? Well, it's like this: Lots of people would add as their friends anyone who'd so much as looked at them from across the street, so that they could then brag about how they had fifty thousand friends and were more popular than Jesus. Of course, having added these "friends", they would then ignore them completely, since they were just after ego-padding, not actual interaction. Then comes along the News Feed, and suddenly they're inundated with updates about all these people they didn't care about. Worse than that, since they don't actually know most of these people or even remember that they added them, it appears that they're being updated on the statuses of a group of random strangers, which leads to the erroneous conclusion "hey -- if random strangers' details are being broadcast to me, that means that my details are being broadcast to random strangers as well! Gaah - invasion of privacy!!" And then with the screaming and the protests and the stupidity. Eventually everything settled down, adjustments were made, habits were changed and everyone was happy, but apparently it was a massive issue at the time (like I say, it wasn't big news here because Facebook wasn't on the local radar at the time).
The article I linked to looks at the whole issue from a usability perspective, asking what went wrong and what the Facebook team could have done differently. While they try to be fair about it, what it comes down to is that Facebook's users are retarded, and the Facebook team's mistake was in not realising how retarded their users were.
So much for your class war, then -- I mean, if the users of Facebook are supposed to be the clever elitist ones, then MySpace would have to be some sort of drooling, buck-toothed orgy of banal non-entities, talentless musicians and horny adolescents desperately soliciting webcam snaps of teenage girls in their underwear, which is clearly... Oh.