Facebook, the popular social networking site, was the frontrunner and leader in the social networking for college students for a long time.  But, given the recent controversies over the Facebook news feed and the decision to make Facebook open to to everyone, not just to college students, it seems that the site might be losing its edge to MySpace and other networks.  The pattern of events in the Facebook world recently is such that it seems like Mark Zuckerberg is writing a "How To" book about ruining social networking sites.

The newsfeed service, to which avid "Facebookers" responded with a formal petition to Mark Zuckerberg, head of Facebook, to remove the feed and institute additional privacy controls.  Basically, the Facebook Feed automatically notifies a user whenever people in his or her network make changes in their profiles, friends, or groups. It even notifies you when someone posts a note on another person's "wall", if one of you buddies accepts a new friend, or accepts an invite to an event.  Personally, I find the newsfeed overwhelming, a bit obnoxious, and totally unnecessary.  While people should not be signing up to Facebook hoping for privacy, everyone does not need to know if I change my favorite movie from "Top Gun" to "Anchorman".  Nor do I need to know whether or not Mary Jo accepts Bobby Sue as her friend.  (Check out the post "Facebook Fracas" by Mark Glaser from PBS Mediashift for more info on the news feed debacle.)  To its credit, Facebook has since given users some additional controls over the news feed by allowing people to choose what parts of their profile will be shown in the news feed.  But, overall, I think this was a bad move.

One of the most attractive aspects of Facebook that gave it an edge over its competitors was that it was only accessible by college students.  Even though putting up a profile on Facebook requires you to post some personal information about yourself on the Web, there was a degree of freedom about it because this information would most likely only be seen by your friends.  Now, however, Facebook is going to be open to the whole world, which will most likely discourage college students from posting silly or potentially embarrassing pictures, which, lets face it, was one of the most fun things about Facebook to begin with.  Bad move #2. 

So what's next, Mark?  Got any other brilliant ideas up your sleeve?  Maybe you could charge people to sign up for a Facebook account.  Or sell email addresses to spammers.  Perhaps you would like to make a database of embarrassing information and use it to ruin the job interviews and careers of college kids everywhere?  Well, it seems like you're already attempting to sabotage your Facebook creation that became so popular, so why not? 

With the simplicity and privacy of the orignial Facebook gone, will college students turn to other social networking sites for their procrastination hours?  MySpace is already widely used, and enables people to upload and share videos, something Facebook never did in the first place.  And CNet blogger Zoe Slocum points out a couple of new up-and-coming social networking sites that have unique offerings for their college audiences.  CollegeHotList.com and College Tonight both offer social networking plus the ability for students and alumni to rate things from local bars and restaurants to frat parties, and yes, even how other people look.  College Tonight also boasts a section specifically dedicated to spreading rumors.  What does Facebook have on these sites?  I can't think of a thing.

Looking to sabotage a social networking dynasty?  Just ask Mark Zuckerberg for some advice. 

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