News

Growth, growing pains for social networking site

Chris O'Brien
San Jose Mercury News (MCT)

Lest anyone is inclined to declare 2007 the Year of Facebook, here's a clarification: The Facebook era actually started back in September 2006. At the time, few even noticed.

Back then, Facebook was mostly making headlines for rolling out a newsfeed feature that alerted everyone to any updates made by their friends. Privacy advocates howled, users by the thousands signed petitions, and founder Mark Zuckerberg issued a public apology and made the feature optional.

Also around then, people were distracted by Google's grand buyout of YouTube for $1.65 billion. With that valuation, rumors surfaced that Yahoo was about to buy Facebook for $1 billion. Ha!

So what did we miss? Facebook, which had previously been open only to college and high school students, quietly expanded registration in September 2006 so anyone could join.

And boy, did they join.

At the end of 2006, Facebook claimed 12 million active users. By October 2007 that number had jumped to 50 million.

Whether or not Facebook sustains its momentum, it has ignited a frenzy around social networking that may reshape the way almost everyone thinks of the Internet. And that, combined with the company's runaway hype, may provide the best arguments for why Facebook was the most important business or technology story in Silicon Valley in 2007.

But why Facebook? And why now?

There already were plenty of social networking sites available. MySpace had been a phenomenon for teens and musicians. LinkedIn created a more professional-oriented space.

Jeremiah Owyang, a Forrester Research analyst, said Facebook simply allows people to create networks that encompass any part of their life, rather than just a narrow part like their work or friends.

"Facebook is a platform that allows a lot of facets of your life to come together for the first time," Owyang said.

While MySpace once had a huge lead over Facebook, Owyang expects Facebook to surpass 200 million users in the fourth quarter of 2008 and overtake MySpace.

Part of the Facebook phenomenon was propelled by the launch of its Facebook platform in May, which let third-party developers write applications that allowed people to do everything from play games with each other to exchange virtual drinks. That move spawned a whole new industry of Facebook applications, with thousands having been created already.

By fall, the non-Yahoo deal was a dim memory. Microsoft took a $240 million stake in the company, giving Facebook an estimated valuation of $10 billion to $15 billion.

With Facebook threatening to become a juggernaut, Google responded by launching an Open Social initiative that would create an open-source standard for writing social networking applications. And over the past few months, just about every Internet company was trying to articulate its social networking strategy.

But beyond the Web, even traditional companies and marketers latched on to social networking as a way to change the way they related to their customers and employees.

Toward the end of 2007, Facebook found itself once again in the crosshairs of privacy advocates with the launch of a new advertising platform called Beacon that critics claimed tracked too much of its members' behavior.

This probably won't slow Facebook much in 2008. And the company and Zuckerberg clearly have the long term in mind. Speaking about Facebook applications, he recently said, "We're going to work on this for years," he said. "It might take 10 years before this is a mature platform."

That's in part why the far wider embrace of social networking by business and culture will likely affect the way Silicon Valley operates for years to come.

"Most marketers are now looking to incorporate social media in their markets," Owyang said. "So this is just getting started."

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image