Facebook's growing marketshare both here in the U.S. and worldwide, there's a growing concern that Facebook will soon morph into that other social network - one that many of us had happily left behind: MySpace. But unfortunately, hints of MySpace have been cropping up into Facebook lately thanks to things like new, tricked-out profiles and the recently launched video content. Is Facebook...gasp...turning into MySpace?Given
MySpace: We Used To Be Friends
Although always a hub for finding music, MySpace was also once a great place to go and hang out with your friends online, too. But something changed. Maybe it was the "who can have the most friends" contests that had people adding perfect strangers to their profiles, or maybe it was the spam bots that wanted to "be your friend," or maybe it was the headache-inducing profiles filled with glittery graphics and overloaded with media. Most likely, though, it was a combination of all these things and more that made an exodus from MySpace so appealing.
Now, don't misunderstand. We know that for many people out there, MySpace is still very much a part of their online social lives, and that's fine. But we're also aware of a number of a growing number of users ditching MySpace for Facebook. Some even reported that the the split is occurring along class lines.
Whatever the case, there's one big thing that draws people to Facebook: it's not MySpace.
Danger! Eyesores Ahead: Facebook App Gives You MySpace-esque Profiles
Exhibit A in the Myspace-ification (yes, we know that's not a word) of Facebook is the new app put out by PageRage. Once installed, you can dress up your Facebook profile in any number of themes. The themes feature designs involving nature, art, causes, politics, and more. This app uses the technology from Yontoo which lets you make changes to web sites once installed. With it, skinning Facebook is easy.
Although the above may look like a disaster in the making if you prefer less busy profiles, unlike MySpace, you do have an out: just don't install the app. Without the PageRage app installed, Facebook profiles look clean and uncluttered, the same as usual.
Video on Facebook? How Very MySpace Of You
Another area where Facebook is becoming more MySpace-like is video. Thanks to last week's newly announced partnership between application maker Slide and major media companies, a new app called FunSpace Channels has now launched. Here, Facebook users can search, watch, and share the latest TV, music, and other video content from media partners CBS, Current Media, E! Entertainment, FUEL TV, Hulu, Sony BMG, TMZ, Universal Music Group, 236.com, Break Media, CollegeHumor, Howcast, Video Detective, and YouTube.
This move had some questioning whether or not Facebook is where you would go to watch TV online. On NY Times Bits blog, Saul Hansell writes:
Is the core of Facebook about consuming media? That's always been the biggest difference between MySpace and Facebook. On MySpace, users are defining their personalities by programming their own collage of text, photos, music and video, blending work they created themselves with clips of professional work. When you are on MySpace you read about what your friends are doing, but at the same time you are listing to what they are listening to and watching what they are watching. Facebook is all about person-to-person and person-to-small group communications.
We wondered that as well. In the past, Facebook was all about communication, not consuming media, that was MySpace...right? Apparently not. According to research analyst David Card with Jupiter Research, a June survey showed that only 12% of social network users regularly watch professional video on social networks and there's no statistical difference between MySpace and Facebook users. In other words, watching video on social networks is still in low demand, so offering video on Facebook only really caters to the heaviest of entertainment consumers. Yet Slide FunSpace has managed to accumulate 18,330,571 monthly active users since its launch on October 1st, 2008.
Spammers Aren't Your Friends
Then there's the spam problem. According to Security Labs, they've noticed a rise in spam emails posing as Facebook friend requests. Those malicious emails actually contain attachments with Trojan horses in the form of a .zip file. These emails arrive in your inbox, but they never originated from Facebook. However, that distinction will be lost on the less tech-savvy. The Facebook brand can still feel the affects of this negative association and, even worse, the site could be blamed by its users for sending spam.
In addition to the malicious spam, the Chicago Tribune reports that companies attempting to market to customers on Facebook are getting mistaken for spam and are being booted from the system. Those companies may be walking a fine line between using Facebook for communication purposes and spamming their friends, but it appears that Facebook is erring on the side of caution. That's good because what one company thinks is communication often just seems to us like spam, so we're happy that Facebook is taking a proactive approach. However, with so many people now use Facebook to organize large events like conferences, reunions, and the like, we hope that Facebook isn't unilaterally knocking people off based on arbitrary limits.
Not MySpace Yet
So it seems that Facebook is picking up some of MySpace's themes - busy profiles, video entertainment, and yes,spam, but we think Facebook still has a fighting chance. For one thing, the first two items - profiles and TV - are entirely optional, as they are applications you can choose to install or ignore as you wish. As for the spam, it may be on the increase, but at least Facebook isn't really at fault. Having previously provided their users with an "ignore all" button to fight application spam, Facebook knows that spam is the sort of thing that can make or break a social network. Fighting this type of spam is really just a user education issue - the same issue that banks, eBay, and credit card companies have to deal with all the time.
It doesn't take much to change user perception, but thankfully, Facebook hasn't become a MySpace clone yet. However, it's worth noting these small steps in MySpace's direction.