How was it that I knew everyone who was living on my floor of my freshman dorm a month before I had even laid eyes on the building? How was it that I found out that girls phone number I met the night before even though I only caught half of her first name and her major? And how was it that I was able to see pictures of my long lost best friend from elementary school’s vacation to Kalamazoo? Obviously, the answer is Facebook, and it has dramatically changed the way in which college kids meet each other, share information, and essentially, live.
Facebook was launched in early 2004 by then Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg with a simple goal: to give college students a convenient and easy to use website through which they could share information about themselves and look up potentially necessary information about a friend. This was back in the day when they didn’t even own the domain name Facebook.com (remember good old TheFacebook.com?). Now, five years later, the company is valued somewhere in the tens of billions of dollars range. How did this happen? The answer is simple. There is no better place on the internet for advertisers to get such a focused demographic coupled with extremely high traffic. Originally you had to be a college student to register. If you didn’t have a valid Johndoe@somecollege.edu address, you couldn’t sign up for Facebook. And for me and everyone I knew, we liked it that way. The system worked perfectly for everyone involved. Zuckerberg got his millions, advertisers got their targeted demographic, and the users got a well put together networking site that wasn’t bogged down by all the crap like MySpace was.
Speaking of which, have you ever actually tried to look at someone’s MySpace page? I know it’s in the top five hit sites on all of the internet but it’s honestly disgraceful. Try dumping ten gallons of different colored paint onto your Sunday newspaper and then trying to read the articles. That’s your standard MySpace page in a nutshell. Facebook worked beautifully because only other college students were on it and the interface was clean, easy to navigate, and straight to the point. Then capitalism set in.
In my mind here is what must have happened. In the first several years of Facebook’s existence they were still working out the kinks in the site, registering all of the thousands of schools in America, and creating a legitimate business out of what was originally just a pipedream. Only a year and a half later, they realized they could easily expand. In the world of internet advertising, more hits equals more money because web hosts are paid on a per click basis. Thus, the evolution is obvious. If you want to make more money, you need more people to go to your webpage so not allowing 90% of the population to access your web page is not exactly good business. Hello, high school Facebook, the beginning of the end of Facebook as I and my fellow college students knew it. Apparently making hundreds of millions of dollars was not enough for Zuckerberg and company. This was obvious when Zuckerberg coldly turned down an offer to buy Facebook for $750 million dollars in 2006. His asking price? $2 billion! This actually sounds somewhat legitimate when you consider that Microsoft bought 1.4% of Facebook for a whopping $240 million in 2007 valuing the company at well over $15 billion.
Unfortunately, money makes the world go round and Facebook wanted its fair share. Today, anyone with an email address can sign up for an account, so don’t be surprised when your best friend’s mom challenges you to Roshambull. And now, for my final complaint, which was actually what this blog post was supposed to be about, Apps! Apps, Apps, Apps! The bane of my Facebook existence. Since when did social networking have anything to do with being bitten by a zombie!? I go on facebook to do one of a very select few things; look for a phone number, look for a screen name, make sure I remember my girlfriend’s birthday, or to look at someone’s pictures when I’m bored. That’s it! Nothing else! No zombies, no games, no advanced wall, no super advanced wall, and certainly no super duper advanced wall where you can write things in graffiti and seal it with a kiss. When I sign onto Facebook I am kindly greeted by at least fifteen zombie invitations, four zombie slayer invitations (seriously, what the hell), 3 jetman invitations (it’s actually a really fun little game), and finally thirty five invitations to random events that are being hosted by friends of mine but aren’t even taking place in the state where I live! Facebook, for the love of god when is it going to end?
Facebook needs to take a long look in the mirror and realize that it needs to get back to serving the people it was originally set up to serve, college students. If that means taking a pay cut, so be it. The site has become so bogged down with crap that it takes five minutes just to find someone’s contact information on their page. Get back to basics or you are going to start losing many of the people who made you successful to begin with.