You Have No Friends on Facebook

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So, I'm not going to focus this blog on the already widely circulated news from Facebook about That's a done deal. And, honestly, not a bad deal. I've personally complained to my friends and peers about the hassle of tracking who I contact, where, and how. LinkedIn has the same problem: You reach out to peers and, potentially, prospects, communicate with them via LinkedIn, and then communicate via email. When you need to wrap up the thread in a nice, neat little package, you can't. Why? Because your correspondence crosses many mediums.

So Facebook is smart in trying to solve that problem.

But, this raises the question: Is Facebook becoming... too much?

MySpace is quickly becoming the failure du jour (well, perhaps that should be written in the past tense). Ignoring the absolutely ugliness of MySpace pages (think "Geocities on crack"), MySpace tried to be everything to everyone, but without the really cool Facebook API. In other words, MySpace tried too much instead of staying focused (and clean).

Facebook is clearly trying to reposition itself from a social network site to a comprehensive internet of sorts, where applications, messaging, and APIs abound. And in this mix we have people, me and you, that log into Facebook to post updates about our lives and work, read up on what our neighbors are doing (and apparently ex's), arrange dates, and, now according to Facebook, communicate and track our conversations inside and outside of the Facebook-o-sphere.

Sounds great.

But what happened to niche marketing? To focusing on what you really want?

Consumers love options, but they also love a focused product that they can easily understand and control. With Facebook, it's quickly becoming difficult to do either. There are so many features and ways of doing things with Facebook that even I have to hit the help page now and then (e.g., creating an album takes a few more steps than just posting a picture). And, clearly, controlling your Facebook account has less to do with your knowledge and more to do with how Facebook decides it wants to handle privacy that particular day of the month.

And now enter into the conversation: Path. Path is a new social networking application based on the iPhone (well, really, iOS 4), and it has a really great concept for a social networking site: You can only have 50 friends.

And now enter reality. Nobody has more than 50 friends or so. That's the cold-hard truth of our world, and something that Facebook users have forgotten. Sure, you can have 500 acquaintances, or 50,000 fans, but you can't have more than 50 friends-there just isn't enough time in the day. (The number "50" may be a tad arbitrary. Read an excellent discussion on this topic on Wikipedia.)

So in this day of APIs and cross-connected, hybridized, uber-communiation with our massive network of I-know-you connections, are people going to move away from the Facebook model? Will people use Facebook as just a medium for communication and arms length connections, much like Gmail, but rely on services like Path to stay in touch with their real friends?

Let's put this another way: In the future, will being friends on Facebook be akin to the "head nod" between acquaintances? You know the person, but you don't invite them over for the Sunday afternoon BBQ. That right is reserved for your Path friends, or, just maybe, the person living next to you.

This story, "You Have No Friends on Facebook" was originally published by Network World.

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