Surprisingly, PC World left Facebook people off their list of top 50 most influential people on the web. Last summer, Business 2.0 left Facebook off their list of influencers. This reminds me that, amazingly, Facebook still flies under the radar of industry observers. (Remember, of course, that Facebook is a top 10 website in traffic!) Over time, the company will get the recognition it deserves. Of course, its 20 million members are well aware of the utility of Facebook, but the mass media is not. If you were not in college when Facebook was around, but you want to understand its influence, go live in a dorm on any college campus. Sit in the library and popular hang outs. Facebook is everywhere. Facebook is an essential communication tool, social facilitator and utility for college students. If you can’t do that, go invite all your friends to join – the more you have, the more it will become a daily source of information for you.
Facebook’s utility puts it in a class of its own – MySpace is not in that class. Facebook’s privacy options enable users to share only what they want to share. Facebook is the biggest photo site on the internet and has achieved that because friends share photos with friends they otherwise would not share with anyone else. Facebook users are comfortable with sharing in the Facebook environment. In contrast, MySpace has to deal with friend, comment and messaging spam – as a result, MySpacers are restricting their profiles to just their friends. Even with that privacy, MySpace does not and will not have the same structural advantages as Facebook. Facebook does it by community and enables finer tuning. At best, MySpace users are a mish-mash of no privacy and some privacy, but no consistency. From the perspective of sustainability, Facebook is built to last because it enables real life interactions. MySpace is built to die because it enables irrelevant, non-friend communications that empirically kill online communities. MySpace has an edge on Yahoo Finance – notoriously a source of spam – in terms of longevity of quality content, but that’s nothing to hang your hat on.
It is too late for MySpace to change. Any adjustments they make now will only patch underlying competitive disadvantages to Facebook. Facebook, in the long run, is the only network that matters. Beyond that, Facebook can build useful tools MySpace simply cannot – that is a topic for future posts.