Had Friendster been the only social networking site today, and it would be end of the world as its tens of millions of users know it. But then the reality as Nikolai Galicia, Friendster and Money Online (Friendster’s Malaysian owner) country manager for the Philippines sees it is that “It’s a Facebook world”.
Indeed, Facebook quite simply out-innovated them all. Both Friendster and MySpace operated pretty much on two fundamental conceptual pillars: (1) serving as a platform for users to manage a network of connections (their “friends”) and (2) allowing users to maintain and customise (what became known as “pimping”) their personal profile pages. Users interacted with one another by writing “testimonials” on one another’s profile pages. Other forms of interactions were through an internal messaging system (like email except that it was done only among users) and message forums not too different from first-generation message boards like PinoyExchange.com (except that they were hosted within the site itself). A final touch was provision of blogging platforms within MySpace and Friendster — again another instance of integrating already existing Web applications into their respective environments.
Friendster and MySpace, as it turned out, were just next generation versions of the late Geocities.com, only with with the added feature of social network management and better content publication functionality.
Facebook, on the other hand, came to be organised around a truly groundbreaking innovation — the “newsfeed”. The newsfeed pulled updates from one’s network of “friends” into a simple one-dimensional chronologically-arranged stream of content (the feed). A user generates an “update” (which then went on to be broadcast across the newsfeeds of his or her “friends) whenever she does something on Facebook — upload new photos, add new friends, wrote on a friend’s “wall”, etc. What made the Facebook newsfeed so groundbreaking was that users (1) no longer had to visit their friends’ profiles individually to get updated on what they were doing and (2) could themselves push content out to their friends’ newfeeds simply by doing something that Facebook recognises as an “update”.
Subsequent improvements on the newsfeed concept allowed users to do other things that updated their friends’ newsfeeds. Posting links to websites and web pages they happen to find interesting on their walls also became an “update”. The action results in the link to the posted site also published on people’s newsfeeds. The content was, in effect, shared across the user’s network of “friends”. Facebook then became the next big platform where content could go viral, pretty much replacing email (where chain letters and interesting content used to be forwarded) as the primary application for propagating memes across cyberspace.
The rest is history. A new cyber world order — the “Facebook world” — was created.
Friendster and MySpace eventually followed suit and came up with their own versions of Facebook’s innovation. But by then it was too late.
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