Thursday, January 3, 2008

Facebook Report 1 : Score "C"

Facebook receives a total of 76 points out of the possible 100 giving it a letter grade of "C". Below is a breakdown of how the website did in each category and a summary of the judging comments.

The 10 different areas are worth 10 pts. each:

1) User Friendliness : 9pts. = "A"
How easy the site is to learn and use?

Facebook was able to leapfrog Myspace and Friendster by listening to those sites unsatisfied users and putting some common sense design to the way social networking was growing. Just as Myspace built off of the early success of Friendster, Facebook built off both and was the first to bring a fantastic second generation of social networking site with all the social networking features myspacers were looking for in a simple easy to learn system.

Many of the applications that Facebook currently has can be performed on Myspace, however users have been forced to go to 3rd party sites to copy code to paste into their profile. Just recently has Myspace attempted to compete with Facebooks platform. Facebook was also very willing to try new technologies to enhance user experience and ease navigation through the site. An example of such technology is the photo tagging ability for users to link a face in a picture to that person's profile. Facebook does an excellent job giving its users a very rich social networking experience through a very intuitive interface. People coming from different sites have a hard time making the switch, but once there usually have no regrets.

2) Amount of Content : 8pts. = "B"
How much stuff they have to look at?

When people think of internet content they think of the likes of Youtube and Digg. However, Facebook approaches "content" in a different way, that being through their applications programs. Users have the ability to upload videos and pictures to their profiles or to various groups they may be a part of but it is not searchable/sortable like Digg, Youtube, or Myspace. The goal of Facebook is to make the system much more like a social utility for peers and thus they are not interested in connecting people with random media but rather through communications. A key way of doing this has been by creating an open source developers platform for outsiders to develop the "applications" which range from games, to favorite movies, or even to becoming vampires.

Many of these applications prove to be a useless waste of time but many are crucial for communication among users. Because these applications create more entertainment value and just give users more to do in general besides message back and forth, we consider it a major source of content that blows the traditional norm out of the water. Another fantastic aspect of the application system is that it brings outside developers into Facebook to develop the site for them. Thus, Facebook saves a ton of money on development and marketing because companies are developing for them and users are advertising these applications to their friends via word of mouth/viral communication. While the application system is a fantastic new addition to the social networking platform, Facebook should still take advantage of what came before it in Myspace, Youtube and Digg. A combination of social applications and media content would make Facebook an even stronger force to compete with. 8pts. for their ingenuity of the application system but also for breaking away from what has worked in the past.

3) Amount of Users : 9pts. = "A"
How many users are on site?

With 58 million users Facebook has grown out of the college only users website it once was into a full service social networking website for any person over 13 years of age. Some judges didn't think it was a good idea to open up the site to the masses because it seemed to cheapen the user base. One such user proclaimed, "I am on Facebook to avoid that Myspace trash." While this lowered the loyalty toward the company, opening up the system has allowed Facebook to share their great system with a much bigger market. 9 for making it to the big leagues, but there can only be one top dog and for now that's Myspace with 217 million.

4) Extra Features : 10pts. = "A+"
How much extra stuff do they have to do?

As previously mentioned, Facebook as blown the lid off of application content. No longer do social networks revolve around looking at your friends pages or writing on their bulletins. Now Facebook has an open source platform for third party software to develop new applications at an alarming rate that keeps users interested and keeps them on the site much longer than normal social networks. One judge referenced that users of Facebook are spending an average of 25 minutes a day on the site. This staggering number shows that there is obviously a lot going on; whether you want to network in groups, play Texas Holdem Poker or give gifts, Facebook seems to have it all for their users. Facebook gets props for the extras-10pts.

5) General Mission of Site : 8pts. = "B"
Does the company have a good mission?

Big and bold on the homepage, "Facebook is a social utility that connects you with the people around you." Kinda wordy and not so original, but overall a good message. This accurately describes the mission of what Facebook is attempting to do, while leaving the user wanting more. This message reflects the general state of the site where users can connect great, but do little more than mindless chain letter like games. Facebook has a full plate keeping up with competition and their break neck growth. If they want to take it to the next level judges feel that there needs to be more quality things to do. They've done a great job connecting people, now they need to work on more real things for them to do instead of "buying each other virtual martinis". A judge suggests that Facebook can make a positive contribution on the net while maintaining its lofty popularity. "Facebook could kill two birds with one stone by offering philanthropic things to do like Care2 or Kiva."

6) User Involvement : 6pts. = "D"
How much do users affect Development/Management?

Just because there are a ton of users on Facebook does not mean users are very involved. Our judges would suggest that outside developers are influencing the user experience in an extremely negative way. Since Zuckerberg introduced his new advertising platform system he has been criticized left and right for not respecting the privacy of his user base. He stayed quiet for some time while the negative buzz was swarming and then quietly said he would fix the problem. Well, the problem isn't fixed. Outside developers creating the "applications" on the site are still attaining personal data to use in advertising. The truth of the matter is that Facebook is the worst at keeping users happy with their privacy rating which so happens to be the number one problem voiced by the user-base. If Facebook wants to regain its users trust they must do what the users want and give them their privacy. Zuckerberg has had a tremendous amount of good fortune and in SNC's eye's the site basically landed on his lap. He wasn't revolutionary in his approach to social networking...he was just there at the right time. So "Zucky", stop thumbing your nose at the rest of the social networking competition and instead, open those ears of yours and pay attention or you just might be wondering what just passed you by...6 for continually patting themselves on the back.

7) Company Loyalty : 6pts. = "D"
How much the company cares about it's users?

As much as the users are enamored with Facebook and its rich features, we were surprised to find that judges felt that Facebook takes it's users for granted. It seems that Facebook counts on it's superior platform to hypnotize its users so it can quietly abuse them. This section was inundated with lists from the judges on ways Facebook has alienated it's users, the following captures the major topics.

-The company started out as a college student only social network which kept most of the cheap and taudry out of the community. To the dismay of existing college users, Facebook lifted this requirement allowing the spammers and the crazies into their pristine community that was originally designated a place for similar minded college students.

-The company opened up users profiles to be included within Google search results. This futher fueled the fire the users felt from when the site went away from college only status. A major outcry rang out in response to the major policy change that was contrary to the users desires. As a result Facebook reluctantly allowed users more privacy only if they were able to dig deep enough into their profile settings.

-Facebook allows users to see all their friends recent activities that sometimes has a negative result. Users have repeatedly asked if they could have control over what information is shared.

- Facebook will allow its advertisers to use the personal profile information and pictures of its users to advertise their products, without permission or compensation. This comment is unverified, however came up several times. If it is not true, it's at least indicative of Facebooks callousness with its users.

-Zuckerberg has a general unwillingness to incorporate individual users suggestions. Facebook had done some interesting site development techniques using prizes as motivation with 3rd party developers but they aren't necessarily listening to what their users really want.

-Facebook is very secretive with company information, but not so protective of user information. This builds the general distrust between the users and company; illustrating the preference of a shortsighted profit over the long term care of their users.

-Company Loyalty was hurt when Facebook sold a 1.6 percent stake to Microsoft Corp. for $240 million valuing the company at $15 billion. One of the appeals of the site was that it was a site created by one of us, a regular guy who was taking on the big guys. Judges felt that the purchase meant that their cool company had sold out. Not only did they sell out, but they sold out to the most corporate of corporate tech companies owned by Mr. Anti-Social himself Bill Gates. Good thing Gates isn't an automatic friend when you sign up like Tom on Myspace, he might send you a Zombie Operating System or something else really exciting.

6pts. for not valuing and respecting your user base. Judges also said that this rating was likely to be on a downward trend if their current mentality persists.

8) Social Responsibility : 7pts. = "C"
Does the company operate in the best interest of the community?

Facebook is growing at an alarming rate. This means that they must be doing something right. General feedback by users suggests they are happy with the look, feel and applications of the site but are very disappointed with the privacy issues. But since Facebook continues to be the fastest growing social networking system (besides Godtube) users must not be too alarmed about their privacy. That being said, if Facebook hopes to continue to grow and to remain atop of the social network world, they must listen to their users and act according to their wishes. Some compare Mark Zuckerberg to the next Bill Gates which seems to be a little premature. Here's hoping that Facebook matures and evolves along with its founder. Don't try to conquer the internet world overnight...take your time and use babysteps. If you don't take this warning big bad Google, who has been there long before you, will be eagerly awaiting your next mistake. A cautious 7.

9) How Green the Company Operates : 5pts. = "F"
Does the company operate with the best interest of the environment in mind?

Aside from letting users form their own groups that might happen to be focused on the environment, Facebook seem to be actively green. Judges felt that Facebook had a better community of users that actually care about real issues more than showing off how sexy they might be a la Myspace; however judges felt that the site was just as spiritless. Facebook could very easily make sections for green groups and green content to attract and promote more environmentally advantageous use of the site. Judges also searched for news about how Green the Facebook company operates with no information surfacing on them adopting eco practices within their office or the rest of their business plan. 5pts. for not promoting the green movement within their community and doing the easy things around the office that will help your impact on the environment and maybe even improve the bottom line (If you care about profitability).

10) How Cool the site is : 8pts. = "B"
Can you see this being a cool site for whoever it's target user is?

Facebook is a cool site hands down but by no means the coolest. The navigation and user friendliness are a huge bonus for the site. Many users that aren't very internet savvy can navigate the pages of Facebook with ease. Very rarely have we heard complaints which is a great thing for them. They obviously put a lot of energy into the user experience. But now that the technology exists and the users are becoming accustomed to the interface, what happens next? Sure, Facebook has their great applications for users to piddle away time with. What else? Oh that's right, they can join the majority of others. So where does Facebook go from here? Myspace is by far the coolest of the sites just because of their enormous presence on the internet and even though Facebook continues to expand its reach they are a long way from what we consider to be the coolest of the network sites. In order for them to jump in the standings they must start to do something meaningful with the site. Users will begin to wane in their desire to use social network systems...they want to feel as though they are really part of something different. This message does not only go to Facebook but to all the other social networking sites out there...get real...expand your imaginary walls and bring in the real. Care2 is doing it...maybe they have the right concept? 8 for being an overall cool site.

Total Score = 76 pts. = "C"

3 Ways to Improve

1) Facebook has done a great job connecting people, now they need to work on more real things for them to do instead of "buying each other virtual martinis". A judge suggests that Facebook can make a positive contribution on the net while maintaining its lofty popularity.

2) Facebook is very secretive with company information, but not so protective of user information. This builds the general distrust between the users and company; illustrating the preference of a shortsighted profit over the long term care of their users. Be honest with your users and you will find mutual reciprocity.

3) Facebook could very easily make sections for green groups and green content to attract and promote more environmentally advantageous use of the site. Be an innovator not a follower. Now that Facebook has catipulted into mainstream social networks, it's time to lead by example and show the world how to make a difference.


donk.usa said...

Perhaps some green organizations such as Treehugger or should develop some ways to use the Facebook API like a lot of other sites have done...Show the latest Huggs on your Facebook anyone?

cbmilne33 said...

I do think that one of the strategies behind the Facebook external developers system is to create an integrated social networks alliances.It is also another way for me to keep track of my feeds on the other sites that I am also a user of in the integrated pan social networks alliance structure.I do gather that eventually the entire internet would become a super social network.

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