By Deane Barker on July 6, 2005

Online social network links college students: Facebook is apparently the Next Big Thing. From the description in this article, it doesn’t seem much different from other social networking services. What makes one service (of any genre) take off, while others flounder?

Users of Facebook, can post a photo and a profile of themselves for free. The profiles include as little or as much information as the user desires, including basic biographies, lists of hobbies and interests, even home address and cell phone number.

Users control who can see their profiles — from only friends to all other users. Other users can then search the profiles for classmates, childhood acquaintances, people who share common interests.

Not surprisingly, it was started by three sophmores at Harvard. That’s the trick, I think — enroll at Harvard, think up a great idea, then drop out.



  1. I think the difference is this one is restricted to college students. They make an effort to tailor it to each school, too: adding the names of residence halls and specific courses offered.

    Plus for some people, it turns into a race to see how many ‘friends’ they can get.

  2. Consider, for a moment, the provided URL. It was mentioned on 3 Quarks Daily as well.

    What made this service take off was $13 million in shady venture capital, sadly enough.

  3. In response to Josh above, it was most certainly not the $13 million in VC that made the site take off: it has been a resounding success since it launched in February 2004. The network has exploded in popularity on the basis of word-of-mouth and demand from students at other schools. The strength of thefacebook and the reason why users stay on the website longer than on MySpace is because it is effectively a comprehensive directory of students based on real world boundaries (each college campus), it is more useful because it has a higher “friends of friends” quotient than MySpace (meaning of all of a user’s real life friends of friends, the percentage on facebook is higher than MySpace), and it has a sense of security that MySpace does not have (users from school A cannot view users from school B unless they are linked as friends and it requires a valid .edu email address to sign up). MySpace, in comparison, does not have that same grounding, which makes MySpace more vulnerable to being overtaken.

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