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 Tuesday, December 11, 2007 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter

IN THE SPOTLIGHT


Student Perspective
Facebook: a social networking resource and so much more
By Steven Bryner, senior, English

On the Facebook login screen, it states that it is "a social utility that connects you with the people around you." Members all over the world connected through Facebook use the site to share information about themselves and others with whom they are in contact through the network, including family, friends, acquaintances, people at work and at school and more – the list goes on.

The site, started by former Harvard University student Mark Zuckerberg, began socially connecting students in February 2004. Since that startup date, Facebook is now inclusive of everyone who has Internet access, counting as members nearly every college student in the United States, 10 percent of Canada and according to Zuckerberg, "24 million real people with real connections with demographics all over the world."

According to Facebook's Press Room there are presently more than 55 million active users. The site obtains members equating to the population of San Francisco on a weekly basis, expanding at a tremendous annual growth rate of 300 percent. Zuckerberg believes his site will expand well over this number by the end of 2007, 75 percent of which will be outside of the college community.

Most popular sites on the Internet have a daily user return rate of 15 percent. Facebook has 50 percent of its total users return to the site on a daily basis, sharing information with people within their networks and through extended networks. Monthly, there are over 40 billion page views on the site. Facebook is ranked as the number seven top site and is about to surpass eBay within their fiscal year.  

During the May 2007 presentation Zuckerberg made in San Francisco, he spoke to over 800 developers who have now given Facebook the 'facelift' its users presently see, adding over a hundred applications to share with other members all over the world. On Oct. 24, 2007, Microsoft announced that it had bought a 1.6 percent share for $246 million, which places Facebook's value at around an astonishing $15 billion.

Many people use the site for its original purpose: a social networking resource. They post pictures of themselves and of their family and friends, post their opinions (political and otherwise), and link to groups with which they are associated. The recently added feature to the privacy policy allows members' friends to see their interests as well as the many other newly acquired applications through Facebook Platform.

Like all Internet websites, there must be precautions taken in order to protect one's self. Facebook offers privacy settings to enable safety and is in the process of making more provisions. Nevertheless, according to Facebook's privacy policy, Facebook reserves the right to release the information that users provide (including favorite movies, television shows, books, music, etc.) to organizations, stating that the information shared is minimal and is usually only shared with members' friends or the organizations with which they are affiliated, i.e., Blockbuster. However, anyone can seek out a user and view a thumbnail size picture of him or her as well as the hyperlinks that lead to contact information for that person.

The Oxford University Student Union has urged students to set their profiles to a more limited viewing to protect their privacy. This is good advice for any user of the site, no matter the frequency of their use. Facebook is a great way to network and keep in touch, but with caution. The Internet is a vast space and not everyone uses it for fun.


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