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At a dinner the other night hosted by my friend Pip Coburn, someone (and I’m really sorry, I don’t remember who brought it up) commented “My MySpace profile would generate spam and email messages to connect to spam pages, but I don’t get any of that with Facebook. Why not?”
This is a great question. It almost seems obvious, and yet, I’ve never had this discussion before. I note Read/Write Web’s Richard MacManus had a discussion back in July about how open or closed Facebook is, and someone in the comments mentioned the lack of spam. And over on IT toolbox blog, Tom Olzak describes what he feels is spam: the feature many Facebook Application developers include in their applications that suggest you invite your friends to join in the app once you use it. Or, by design, you can’t use an app unless you get your friends into it. Bite any chumps, lately, zombie? Food fight anyone?
So, by his definition, the spam on Facebook is people sending you invitations to participate in applications, or in groups, for which you’re not really interested. I don’t do the Zombies, Vampires, Compare People or Top Friends apps. I don’t really have time to invest in those, and many seem a little too invasive. Quick story when someone sent me a “Compare People” request, the first question that came up was “who’s better looking?” – with a comparison of a Facebook friend and a picture of my wife, who had just walked into the room. “What’s that?” she asked. End of application. But I digress. Somehow, friends inviting me to try new toys doesn’t feel as much like spam or even Bacn as real email spam does.
Update: It occurs to me David Blumenstein had commented that because it was created for HS and College kids, Facebook would have to have protections in place to keep random email out, or it would die of its’ own weight. Also, he noted the protection of limiting invites for apps to 10 at a time really helps too.
It seems LinkedIn, which has almost no way to interact with other users except asking questions and seeing who knows whom to help you get a job, is now considering adding apps as well. As Saul Hansell (who was also at the dinner) writes in today’s NYTimes Bits, Dan Nye of LinkedIn
wants to keep these add-ons all business, unlike the unrestrained goofiness on Facebook, where programs let you turn your friends into vampires, draw graffiti on their pages, and challenge them to stimulating news quizzes.
They’re going to tightly control who can play in their sandbox, and, frankly, I think that’s a good move. As Facebook and LinkedIn become more and more useful, if they can manage to keep spam or Bacn down to a minimum, and really, truly enable interaction with friends, “friends” and business contacts, they will continue to gain value as replacements for the very broken email system that exists today.
Your friends have very little incentive to spam you. Invite you to play games, maybe, but unless you are closely connected to the body part enhancement community, low cost wrist time-piece community, or the African banking scam community, you may be safer communicating on Social Networks.
This is, of course, a first thought piece on this, late in the afternoon on Friday. Comment away and tell me if I’m missing something.
Bonus points: Plaxo should be the perfect social network, because my address book should be an exact match for my social network. What’s missing at Pulse? Are you using it?