Facebook: Then and Now

Facebook: Then and Now | 40Tech

Today, 40Tech is pleased to present a guest post by Lisa from USDirect.Com.

Facebook started with a few simple ideas, mainly serving as a way to stay connected with friends. In the early stages, it was a used solely by Harvard students and then gradually became available to other college students throughout the country, eventually going worldwide. When Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook, he didn’t realize the billion dollar force it would create. Let’s take a look at the differences in Facebook then and now.

The Beginning of Facebook

In the beginning of Facebook, there were very few features. There were no status updates, messages, photo albums, or even the platform to create a News Feed. At that time, everyone could provide and access only basic information. It was only a simple tool to be used by some people for some virtual social interaction. However, Zuckerberg achieved instant success when he launched thefacebook.com, with over 600 students instantly joining the first day and almost 1,000 joined the following day.

Original Facebook accounts had to be from a Harvard.edu email address and user names were verified.

What it did have:

  • Friends and Friend Request options, something that increased the underlying value of Facebook.
  • The Invitations feature was also available but the user had to input the email addresses as there was no Import Contact option.
  • A basic profile option, which only permitted uploading a single photo.
  • User data lists, including gender, birthdate, favorite music and books, about me, dorm info, phone numbers, and course information.
  • Search option – find users by name, courses, class year, etc.
  • Privacy restrictions
  • A friend graph, which was later removed

Facebook as we Know it Now

Facebook went viral, as net folks like to say. It spread like wildfire. Facebook became a public forum and social media communication tool, no longer used only by college students. Facebook became a platform for sharing an array of content for millions of people.

Because of the rising popularity in the News Feed function, people became concerned with controlling who sees their content. In 2009, Zuckerberg worked to build a better privacy model that applied to news feeds, photos and videos, and all aspects of a profile. Facebook’s settings have made it easier for users to hide information and now require users to gain permission before allowing a connection. They are also able to moderate and punish spammers.

The popularity of Facebook and relevance it has in our culture inspired the 2010 film, “The Social Network,” starring Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake.

The User is in Control

In 2010, Facebook launched community pages. It also started various other ways to provide users social and personalized experiences on foreign sites they used. The rest is in your hands. You can now chat with your friends, group your conversations, and communication via Facebook is easier.They say the only thing that is constant is change and this is truly applicable to Facebook.

About the Author:  Lisa is an avid yoga enthusiast who enjoys writing in her spare time for USdirect.com – home of Direct TV.

The Future of Technology, Facebook, and Relativity

The Future of Technology, Facebook, and Relativity | 40Tech

Do you remember when cell phones were for rich people? It’s only a short jump in my memory to the day when a homeless kid got angry at me when I told him I didn’t have any change; convinced I must be lying because I was carrying a mobile phone. You know, back when they still kind of looked like phones, and Nokia was king?  I felt bad for the guy, but I really was broke. I got the cell phone on credit, could barely pay for the bill, and was having many a fight with the company over false charges.

This ramble isn’t to point out that cell phone companies were crooks, even back then, and it’s not to talk about my questionable technology-money choices. The point is that this was only a few years back. I was in my early 20′s — I’m only in my mid-30′s now — and have gone from having no computer, an unused email address, and the blissful (and retrospective) peace of not knowing or caring where people were or what they were doing, to being a geek tech-blogger that makes his living in online marketing and communications. I own an iPhone, my hold-out wife has finally gotten an Android, and my three-year-old owns my iPad — and regularly sends me artwork via email.

 

Tech is Hungry

Technology is now in the palms of tiny little hands. It’s affordable, or at least readily available, to the majority of the planet, and it’s entire weight of purpose seems to be to interconnect everyone and everything as fast and as in depth as possible. The flow of information has reached truly epic proportions, as has the ability and desire to track that flow, along the habits of the people drowning in it.

The technology behind this phenomenon feeds upon itself, and in many cases, it exists only to further itself. Some of the biggest blogs out there are only so popular because people need a filter; a place to better understand, control, and find some sense of order in the massive technology machine — redundant as that phrase may seem. Smaller blogs exist for the same reason. It was likely part of why Evan started 40Tech, why I joined him, and why you are reading this post right now.

 

Facebook

Facebook is a prime example of the direction of technology. It’s sole purpose is to become familiar and intricately entwined with as much of your life as possible. It attempts to augment your life; make it easier, faster, more connected. It’s addictive. Facebook is so successful at this that it has become embedded in the general populace to the extent that it can almost be perceived in the same way as a governing body. It creates rules that dictate our way of life, is an easy target for privacy concerns and conspiracy theories, and the smallest changes can lead to virtual revolt and widespread public outcry. Facebook, much like many of the governments out there, projects an image of a body that wants to further mankind; make the world we live in a better place and all that. And like many governments, it’s more than a bit of a stretch for most people to really believe that’s true.

Facebook isn’t going anywhere, either — not without a scandal that shakes the entire foundation of their business to the core, or a hostile takeover by a frightened government or technological superpower. With some of the things in the media regarding questionable privacy practices and the rapid expansion of Google+, those things may not seem so far-fetched, but even if the big bad were to happen to the social media giant, it would probably just morph, as opposed to vanish.

Social connectivity is a way of life for us now; whether we like it or not, and no matter the anxiety, stress, or fun disorders it could cause or amplify. It appeals to the voyeur in us. It allows us to meet people we would otherwise never meet, and keep in touch with people to a degree that would be impossible without it. It is a part of work, school, play, business, entertainment, and everyday, mundane life. For Pete’s sake, your washing machine can already contact you to let you know your laundry is done, and there are tweeting dog collars, man!

 

Bring on the Microchips!

Over the next 10-20 years, unless the “social media bubble” or end of days people are right, we will likely find ourselves micro-chipped, QR-coded, and surfing the web while jogging with augmented reality sunglasses that also allow us to huddle with our families, friends, or business contacts on GoogleBook. Don’t ask me how they will take our video — somebody else will figure that out, I’m sure. That is, of course, unless we are all suffering from wifi, cellular, and bluetooth radiation poisoning, which could bring the world to a screeching and potentially catastrophic halt that would make Y2K fears look like a happy day at the park.

Or maybe we’ll be busy ripping the fabric of the universe apart with time machines. Did you hear that Albert Einstein may have been wrong? Some scientists at CERN, near Geneva, may have just recorded neutrinos that were travelling faster than the speed of light. That might disprove the Theory of Relativity and screw up one of the major fundamentals of modern physics. Learned that on Google+, I did… And I’ll be sharing it on Facebook, too.

Games in Google+ are Here – Once Again, Google Seems to Get It

Games in Google Plus are Here – Once Again, Google Seems to Get It | 40Tech

One of the biggest bitches for me when it comes to Facebook is the way it handles social gaming. Yes, social gaming can be fun, and the quest to get the most points, coin, trophies, et al has its satisfying moments — but the constant invitations, notifications, and culling of said items from my Facebook stream is annoying as hell. I know I’m not alone in that sentiment, either. Google+ is jumping in to the games space today, and I’m happy to report that they, once again, appear to have gotten it right.

If you need a Google+ Invite, get it here.

The Facebook method of social gaming is actually very effective if your goal is to use social pressure and addiction propensity to keep people on your social network. Those things, in many ways, are the basis of how Facebook and its attached products work, and many people are tired of it. Google+ broke that model right from the start by removing any mention of “friends” and letting you decide how to label people in your social circles. Google+ games, which is rolling out today, keeps the low-pressure approach by keeping the crap out of your stream. As they say right in their blog post: ” Games in Google+ are there when you want them and gone when you don’t.”

Rejoice!

First of all, Games will have their own page that is accessible from the top of your stream. If you don’t see it yet, don’t fret, you know how Google loves a staggered rollout — just give it time. Once you’re on the page, you can see all of the latest updates from your circles, run through the invites you have (or ignore them entirely), and take a look at the games that other people you’re connected with have been playing. If you are the type that loves to broadcast your score and rub your awesomeness in the face of the masses, you can still do that — but the masses will be your circles, and they will only see your bragging and/or challenges when they feel like gaming themselves and can respond accordingly.

Better for everyone that way…

Google+ Games Homepage Screenshot

There are several games available already, such as Bejeweled Blitz, Bubble Island, and Diamond Dash for the Columns/Tetris style games lovers; Zynga makes an appearance with Zynga Poker, and there are also Sudoku, Dragons of Atlantis, Crime City, Zombie Lane, Dragon Age Legends (hell yeah!), and more. Angry Birds is in there too — but I don’t think I want to have to kill them again. The first time was difficult enough! I nearly had to call Mike Tyson to help me out…

Google+ Games at Launch

So far, the Google+ Games implementation doesn’t disappoint. Remember, though, as with everything else about Google’s new social network, it’s still only a preview. If you run into some problems, try not to hold it against them. Yet.

Let us know about your Google+ Games experience!

Image credits: The Official Google Blog

You’ve Heard the Hype, Now You’ve Tried it for Yourself – Tell Us How You Really Feel About Google+

You’ve Heard the Hype, Now You’ve Tried it for Yourself – Tell Us How You Really Feel About Google+ | 40Tech

Google+ is sexy. People have been raving about it for a month now. A whole entire month! That’s like… years in today’s tech world. Time-on-planet notwithstanding, over 25 million users have signed up, with no real signs of slowing, and the more people who jump in, the more you hear about how cool Google+ is, how Google got it right (finally!), and how people — even high-profile types — are intent on abandoning Facebook and Twitter.

While it is a little early, in my opinion, to make such brash and sweeping movements in the ever-tenuous social media space, Google+ appears to address many frustrations held by users of the current major social networks. This is the same thing that happened when Facebook slapped around and eventually sat on MySpace and Friendster. The main difference here is, due to the widespread adoption of social media into every day life (thanks to Facebook and Twitter), it’s all happening at lightning speed.

But is it real? Is it sustainable? What do you think about it?

Me? I’m definitely enjoying Google+. I like the feel of it. I like the ease in which I can decide who to communicate with, and how easy it is to find new information that I enjoy reading about. Mostly, though, I like that the users are, as a whole, so much more engaged. I don’t know if it is the way Google+ doesn’t force false friendships down your throat, or if it’s because you can actually express yourself without space limitations. Maybe it’s just because Google+ is new and shiny. Either way, I find myself talking with old contacts and meeting new people who ask me questions, answer questions, and otherwise generally converse in a way that feels much closer to blog or forum conversations. It’s nice.

It’s also worth noting that both Facebook and Twitter felt like that for me, once upon a time, before I was inundated by games requests or forced to sift through real people vs those who only viewed me as another leg up in the follow-game. Google+, as it grows, will probably experience similar challenges, which may lead me to once again consider only communicating by phone, in person, via email, blog comments, or (heaven forbid!) snail mail.

What about you? Now that you’ve had a chance to try out Google+, what do you like about it? How do you feel it compares to Facebook and Twitter — does it make you think of dropping them or campaigning to get your family and close friends on board with the new and shiny? Maybe you think that it’s all a bunch of over-inflated hype… just one more example of the media-fed bubbles that have a habit of unexpectedly bursting?

Whichever way you’re leaning, let us know in the comments.

Google+ Envy? Or Are You the More Cautious Type?

Google+ Envy? Or Are You the More Cautious Type? | 40Tech

Google+ is all the rage among the tech-geeks of the world right now. It’s the tech geek — and social geek — media equivalent of a major presidential upset or natural disaster. And with a new Google product, it could end up being either. It really depends on your level of cynicism when it comes to Google launches. Their efforts in the social tech space, while fantastic from the innovation perspective, have fallen flat repeatedly when it comes to adoption. And when I say flat, I mean a fall from a tall, tall building that ends with something reminiscent of a pancake. Or a crêpe.

So I’m curious: where do you stand on the Google+ front?

For me, I’m definitely interested and excited to try it out if and when it ever gets to me. However, I’m more than a bit cautious when it comes to the “Google+ will change social media and business as we know it” spiel. Sure, it’s possible that Google may kill, or at least finally be able to compete with Facebook and Twitter, but we’ve heard all of that before. Hello Google Buzz — and damn you Google Wave.

Frankly, I’m a bit tired of tech media spinning new products like this out of proportion. I’m tired of hearing about unproven products that are destined to kill proven products, especially when the creator has a poor track record of success and their only real merit is that the creator is a tech giant. What has been proven, time and again, is that — if you’ll excuse the age-old, multi-layered saying — size doesn’t matter.

So, what do you think? With the failures of Google Wave, Buzz, Orkut and Sidewiki drag Google down yet again? Is Google+ as amazing as it sounds? Even if it is, do you think it has a prayer of taking on Facebook and/or Twitter? Let us know in the comments.

Find Updates, Files, Connections Quickly: Search Your Personal Cloud with Greplin

Greplin: Find Updates, Files, Connections Quickly: Search Your Personal Cloud | 40Tech

With all of the information, files and, well… stuff we have stored online, it can be a bit complicated to sift through it all when you need to go back and find something. Greplin makes that sort of search a whole lot easier. It indexes several of your online accounts, not the least of which are Facebook, Dropbox, and Gmail, and works like your own personal Google.

Greplin Using the Twitter Search Filter | 40Tech

Greplin has been around since the latter part of 2010, and entered public beta in February of this year. Since then, they have been adding more and more services, and have even developed a Chrome extension that plugs them right into your Gmail — for a search experience that is arguably better than Google’s built in functionality.

Greplin is free to use for the most part, indexing up to 10GB worth of data from services like Twitter, Gmail, and other personal Google services like Gcal, Docs and Contacts, as well as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Dropbox. If you want to index accounts like Evernote, Google Apps, and business-related services like Basecamp and Salesforce, however, you will need a premium subscription — which is only $4.99 per month ($49.99/year). There are also a few services that are unlockable via recommendations to friends, such as Tumblr, Google Reader, and Del.icio.us.

Greplin Indexes, Searches Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, and More | 40Tech

If you have a need to search through your online files and life in general, it doesn’t get better than Greplin. The interface is fantastic, the instant search feature saves time, and it actually performs better and faster than Google even in the search giant’s own services. The Chrome extension is a nice touch, as well, as it also plugs into the Omnibar, allowing you to search your data by simply typing the letter g, followed by a space and your search term.

Check it out here.

Want to help me unlock the unlockables? Get Greplin via this link.

What do you think of Greplin?

Too Many Facebook Friends May Cause Stress, Anxiety

Too Many Facebook Friends May Cause Stress, Anxiety | 40Tech

Having many friends is classically considered a desirable thing, leading to things like wealth of spirit, a good self-image, and a generally happy life. Not so in the modern days of the internet, where terms like “friend” are used as a label for the barest acquaintance, and sometimes even for enemies. In fact, in a recent study by psychologists from Edinburgh Napier University, it was discovered that the amount of “friends” you keep on Facebook may be linked to heightened feelings of anxiety and stress.

Scream image by Robbert van der Steeg

200 students were surveyed, and it was discovered that at least 12% of them felt that Facebook made them anxious. Each of those 12% maintained an average of 117 “friends,” while the remaining 88% kept an average of 75. Some other interesting findings were as follows:

  • Many felt a great pressure to be on Facebook, but there was “considerable ambivalence” as to its benefits.
  • Stress from Facebook use was caused by many different stimuli, including “feelings of exclusion, pressure to be entertaining, paranoia, or envy of others’ lifestyles.”
  • 63% would delay replying to friend requests.
  • 32% felt guilty rejecting friend requests.
  • 10% didn’t like receiving friend requests at all.

The word “friend” could be the main cause of Facebook-related stresses. Perhaps the social media giant should come up with a proprietary name they can trademark, or use something closer to the word “acquaintance” as opposed to a word that is meant to engender feelings of warmth, familiarity, and long term trust. Keeping things as they are, however helps to foster an environment where users, who are still emotionally tied to the meaning of the word friend (no matter how watered down it has become), feel compelled to log on, invite others, and be a part of the service — and maybe more due to its negative aspects instead of the purported positives.

Perhaps we should all just bite the bullet and prune our lists down to our actual friends?

What do you think?

Does Facebook Stress You Out? [WebProNews]

Meet Rockmelt, Your New Social Browser

RockMelt | Social Browser for Google Chrome

Okay, so hands up if you’ve heard of RockMelt.

If you are one of the people who put up your hand — stop that. This is text and I can’t see you. Know, however, that you are quite possibly more connected and in tune with the techieverse than your now shame-faced tech-writer. Somehow, for reasons unknown to all but the almighty Goog itself, my keenly developed tech senses missed this wonder entirely! But, that’s all behind me, now. I’ve seen the light, got an invite, and have been playing with the world’s latest, greatest — and Google Chrome based — social browser for several days now.

Here’s what I’ve discovered:

RockMelt does for Chrome what Flock did for Firefox, but where I found Flock a bit overwhelming in its attempt to integrate social elements into the browser, RockMelt has what feels like it might be just the right mix. One almost has to wonder why Google didn’t think to do this in the first place. If they had integrated Sidewiki and Google Buzz in with the configurable social elements that RockMelt has brought into play, making them a part of the Chrome browser (and by extension, the OS) itself, both of those tools might have seen a much stronger and longer term user base.

In any case, RockMelt, which is still in beta, has a lot of good going for it. There are still a few hiccups, as is to be expected, but even so, the social Chrome is pretty appealing. This is a good thing — it means that Netscape founder Marc Andreesen’s money has been well spent.


Key Features of RockMelt

Collapsible Sidebars

Rockmelt Chrome-Based Social Browser | 40Tech

The primary difference between RockMelt and Chrome, aside from the fact that you have to log into Facebook to use the browser, is the left and right sidebars. Both are collapsible, about a centimetre in width and contain pretty buttons, often full of people’s faces. On the left, is the Facebook chat column, which shows you which of your Facebook friends are online, allows you to view their latest activity with a hover or a click, chat with them, send them a message, or post on their wall. You can also set up a favourites list in this column, and switch between it and the general tab with a single click.

All of this Facebooking takes place just below a miniature of your own profile picture (top left), which, when clicked, allows you to toggle your Facebook Chat availability, as well as update your social network status — including multiple Twitter accounts, if you decide to add them.

On the right edge of the page, you really get to dig in and configure RockMelt to suit both your browsing and social networking needs. Facebook and Twitter buttons give you access to both of those services, showing your feeds in real time. You can interact with items in the feeds as you would expect to be able to, liking, commenting, retweeting, etc. In Twitter, you can access all of your lists and your @messages, but I didn’t see anything for saved searches or DM’s. Also, if you have a lot of lists, you currently are not able to scroll to the ones that get cut off at the bottom of the page. The Facebook button gives access to people in both your main and custom profile lists, and your profile button right below it gives access to your notifications, photos and wall. I found the limited nature of the Facebook access — no pages, message centre, groups, or places — a bit surprising, but it will likely improve as the browser gets closer to official launch.

RockMelt Facebook Integration in Google Chrome | 40Tech

The right sidebar also serves two other important functions, it has a few other already integrated networks, like YouTube, and it allows you to add custom feeds so you can keep track of your favourite websites — it even makes suggestions based on the sites you visit most — and it is the home of your Chrome extensions. I like the way RockMelt handles extensions much better than the way Google does it. For one, I can decide on optimal placement of my extensions — and they will stay that way. Google’s insistence in making things rearrange themselves based on their perceptions of my usage has always driven me crazy. I also like the fact that the sidebar is collapsible, and it doesn’t shrink the size of the URL bar. Finally, If I am not using an extension that often, but don’t want to uninstall or disable it, it is simple to just remove it from the column/dock.

The main problem with RockMelt at the moment, especially if you have a lot of Facebook friends in your favourites, or a lot of extensions, is that the sidebars don’t scroll. Any more than 15 items, total, in either sidebar, and the ones furthest down can not be accessed. Also, the floating window that appears when most extension buttons are clicked is a fixed width element. This causes a problem with some extensions that are too wide for RockMelt. Hopefully these are things that will be rectified in a near-future update.

RockMelt also shares most other major features of Google Chrome, such as the new web apps area and browser synchronization. The apps are not as thoroughly integrated as they are with Chrome, being little more than just shortcuts, and browser sync is only available between other RockMelt implementations. It was a little bit annoying having to search out and re-add all of my apps and extensions, but wasn’t that difficult.

Social Sharing

Sharing what you find while surfing in RockMelt is an extremely easy process. There is a giant button to the immediate right of the URL bar, and it allows for Facebook and Twitter sharing with ridiculous ease. I wish there were a send by email button, though, then I could drop the Shareaholic extension; free up some space. Speaking of email, there is what looks like an email button on the top right of the browser. Don’t be fooled. It is not for your email at all. It is really just a suggestion list of who to send your invites to. I find this choice on RockMelt’s part to be kind of confusing.

Conclusions

RockMelt is a fantastic spin on the Google Chrome browser, packing in most of Chrome’s features and all of its speed. The collapsible social features are a fantastic addition, considering you spend most of your internet time in the browser, and most people spend most browser time on a social network or two. It just makes sense, you know? There are still a few odd issues like the lack of sidebar scrolling, and the fact that, at least for me, embedded flash videos show up as blank spaces, but these issues are the sort of thing you expect in a beta test. RockMelt still has time to make things perfect, and I think it very likely that I will keep using it as it matures.

YouTube Preview Image

Tell us what you think of RockMelt.

An Unfortunate Victim of Timing

image

In everything, balance. That’s the truth of the universe, I think. Heady stuff for a tech blog, but it has seen a proving in the circles we run in just the past few weeks. Yesterday, I posted about the rapid improvement and positive forward traction of Springpad. Unfortunately, at approximately the same time, another service that I have become particularly fond of, especially for its potential to improve the web experience as a whole, has had to close its doors. Unless something drastic happens in the next bit, it is very likely that Cliqset has closed its doors for good.

89017e49-5b2b-4368-b911-f77451012573

Cliqset is – or was – a social aggregator that attempted to take the social web to another level. They were one of the first to embrace technologies like Pubsubhubbub for real-time updating, and they also were one of the forerunners to adopt the Salmon protocol, which allows for cross-network comment conversations. Cliqset showed a lot of promise, but with the juggernaut that is Facebook and the beast that is Twitter commanding people’s attention, not to mention the harshness of the world economy, the founders, Darren Bounds and Charlie Cauthen, just weren’t able to pull together another round of funding. They announced that they were leaving the company in late November, which I heard about through the “grapevine” – but there was still some hope that Cliqset might remain open. I caught up with Darren on Twitter (I’m aware of the irony) and he informed me they had closed the doors just the day before, on December 7, 2010.

3475835f-973a-46f2-abe4-8d0a097f5668

In a post on Louis Gray’s blog, Darren is quoted as follows:

“A federated social Web agenda at Cliqset is something we chose to promote,” he said. “The open standards aspect is something I believe is still the future. The roadmap to getting there is going to be a little longer than we would have liked. But where these standards can be implemented and improve efficiencies, they deliver real value.”

Hopefully, someone will be able to further what Cliqset was trying to accomplish, an open social web that can see people conversing with one another in real time, regardless of their networks of choice, where content and people are the focus, not a closed network infrastructure. Maybe it’s a bit pie in the sky what with Facebook, Google, and others each trying to be the web’s evil overlord, but it’s a hope, nonetheless.

Discuss.