To find out what made Facebook a success, you have to go back, back, back ... back to the beginning ...
Here at the Persaud Department of Facebook Archaeology, I've dug through the pottery shards of two-year-old websites to find ancient writings on the primitive Facebook, a site which I learned may actually predate the cavemen. The GEICO ones, at least.
Anyway, I've found out some interesting facts about Facebook’s early days that may shed some light on why it's such a success.
I've always thought that people use Facebook because their real-life friends use it--and I might add, "and people whom they WANT as their real-life friends." The point is, I think its main purpose is as an extension of existing real-life social networks, which sets it apart from all the "I want to meet people who don't know what I look like" sites out there. As these articles mentioned, and as somebody probably said in class, because most Facebookers use their real identities, their real names, etc., it's so much easier to locate one another. And that, I think, is Facebook’s big secret.
But that leaves another question: why did it catch on ORIGINALLY? Why did those very first
hale, hardy, no doubt cowboy-hat-and-tobacco-encrusted-beard-wearing Facebook Pioneers drag their covered wagons onto the site?
To find out, I dug up what might possibly be the very first article ever written about Facebook, back in the Facebook Bronze Age, or at least the Crimson Age.
The Harvard Crimson published this piece on Facebook—then known as—
just five days after the site first premiered, when it had only 650 users at its very first university.
The most interesting quote, from Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg:
“Everyone’s been talking a lot about a universal face book within Harvard,” Zuckerberg said. “I think it’s kind of silly that it would take the University a couple of years to get around to it. I can do it better than they can, and I can do it in a week.”
It appears lots of people had already recognized the need for an online Facebook so that people could match Harvard names with Harvard faces, and they were ... groansigh ...
workingonitdon'tbothermesomuch when Mark Zuckerberg released his private version. (They
eventually came out with it, but they were a day late and several gabillion dollars short.) And that’s the final key to Facebook’s success—people WANTED it, but nobody had yet gotten around to DOING it. I guess initiative is a valuable character trait after all.
We also see from that article (and this one, written a week later when had
4000+ members) that there's no big secret here. The early Facebookers joined, if not because their real-life friends had joined, in HOPES that their real-life friends (or prospective friends) would join—so they could meet people, for social or academic purposes, that they knew or wanted to know in real life. (This of course is what PAPER facebooks were all about, too.) Interestingly enough, that second article suggests that Facebook beat out its competitor, Friendster, because of “the private-club feel of the Harvard-only site.” And that’s probably true, and probably that feeling of a private place extended to a certain degree to other campuses back when Facebook was a college-only site. Which means that the reasons Facebook took off at Harvard aren’t really the reasons it’s a gigantic success today. Adaptation, too, is a useful trait.
So when you think about it, Facebook completely blows apart the stereotype of Internet social groups as refuges for people who don't like face-to-face conversation. (The fact that I am currently sitting alone in a darkened college computer lab on a weekend is not at all pertinent to this discussion, by the way.) Who knew that what people didn’t want naughty midnight chats with guys named SexxxyMan102456 as much as they wanted a way to have MORE face-to-face conversations?
MySpace didn’t. But Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and his roommate Chris Hughes,
seem to have known it all along. A month after Facebook's premiere, in March 2004, the Crimson published an article on the sociology of Facebook. In it, Mark Zuckerberg says basically the same thing, except he says it in a smart Harvardy manner.
Oh, and his roommate, Christopher Hughes, the very first Facebookologist, says something
similar further down. And you know that these men know the truth, because, well, they are richer than you are.
That article closes with what may be the first-ever Facebook poke joke to appear in a major
publication. And it's kind of a good one.
Works Cited Grynbaum, Michael M. “Mark E. Zuckerberg ’06: The whiz behind the” 10 June 2004. Harvard Crimson.