You Can’t Just Make New Friends on Facebook!
Facebook is not a social network. Who knew?
That’s what they have told their users anyway. TechCrunch shares an email that a user was sent when their account was deleted. In that email, Lauren of User Operations for Facebook says:
Please note that Facebook accounts are meant for authentic usage only. This means that we expect accounts to reflect mainly "real-world" contacts (i.e. your family, schoolmates, co-workers, etc.), rather than mainly “internet-only” contacts. As stated on our home page, Facebook is a social utility that connects you with the people around you, not a “social networking site".
Now let’s put this into context.
The reason for the email, which was likely received by a number of other users, is largely a response to members signing up to play a game via a popular Facebook application called PackRat, which leads to users adding strangers as friends. Facebook wants to keep users who are not interested in PackRat from being annoyed by illegitimate friend requests. This is understandable, but was this really the right way of going about it?
First of all, I wonder how many applications in the Facebook Application Directory cater to people interacting with others that they only know online. Perhaps they should block the apps before deleting the users. Or more appropriately, maybe they should just recognize that the ways in which people use Facebook have gone beyond their initial intentions, and embrace it. Discouraging people from making new friends online through their network seems like a really bad decision.
Facebook’s closest competitor MySpace thrives on people making new friends online. A perfect example of this is the enormous number of musicians, writers, filmmakers, etc. who make friends online with their fans every single day. It is clear that not all of these fans actually know the artists, but can interact with them online, and that is a large appeal for both the artists and the fans.
I’m fairly certain that similar interactions take place on Facebook, but are these violating Facebook’s policy? Are fans who are interested in the possible Facebook movie in the wrong for sending a request to Aaron Sorkin? And what does this mean for businesses? Is business networking frowned upon? Perhaps they wish to keep it limited to the Visa Business Network.
In all fairness, this is probably all blown a little out of proportion. I think (or hope at least) what really happened here was a poorly worded explanation and solution to Facebook’s PackRat problem. I don’t think they thought hard enough about what they were saying, and I will be curious to see if Facebook follows up on any negative publicity.
Some damage control is likely in order for Facebook’s PR department. With MySpace Music set to launch this week, Facebook does not want to drive people away, because I think MySpace is about to draw in quite a few users. I wonder if this episode will be in the Facebook movie.