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Facing Up To MySpace

Andy Vandervell

by

Whatever your view on the Web 2.0 movement, if you ever use the Internet then there's a good chance that you've at least heard of Facebook – some of you might even use it. Many of us at TrustedReviews do, and there's even a TrustedReviews Facebook group.

Having begun as a social networking site purely for students attending Harvard University, Facebook has grown to become the second largest social networking site in the world, trailing only MySpace. Though MySpace is still by far the larger, it boasts 57 million users compared to Facebook's 25 million, the tide seems to be turning in favour of Facebook with faster growth and a generally more positive public perception.

It certainly helps that Facebook has that sense of freshness that MySpace, given its age, doesn't. Facebook is like the partner you haven't got bored of, who still has the ability to surprise you and doesn't worry you with practicalities like doing the washing up or paying the bills.

There are more practical reasons for its popularity though, and if one were to single-out one specific factor it would be the consistency and simplicity of the User Interface (UI). Whereas MySpace made its name by allowing users to do more or less what they liked, editing the CSS and HTML of their page to create a unique look, Facebook gives more attention to the functionality and pure usability of its interface.

This has certainly helped Facebook attract the young adult audience it enjoys; a demographic that certainly do not appreciate the sort of visual assault on senses created by Lily Allen's MySpace page. It seems hard to believe that there are worse looking MySpace pages out there but there are, and that very fact illustrates rather well what is truly awful about MySpace. Add to this the issues of spam and the generally adolescent air that permeates MySpace, and it's no wonder Facebook has been as successful as it has.

In May, however, Facebook took the bold move to open up its API (Application Programming Interface) to third party developers, effectively allowing anyone to create and release applications for use in people's profiles. This has had a profound impact on the Facebook experience, providing a whole raft a new applications to play around with.

In many ways this was a very smart move for Facebook to make. On hearing the news, well known blogger Michael Arrington, acclaimed Facebook to be the Anti-Myspace, praising Facebook for how it had embraced a more open approach to third-party development compared to MySpace. Importantly, the new Applications functionality was proposed as a major way of increasing traffic for the site. In this it has probably been pretty successful, and many users have taken to the new applications with predictable gusto.

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