The social network does quite a bit, but it doesn't do everything its competitors' services offer. Don Reisinger explores its major omissions.
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Bebo: Sharing an artist's dream
Maybe Facebook's groups feature is enough for some writers and musicians to come together and share their work, but I don't think the social network does enough.
Bebo, on the other hand, doesn't just allow users to band together around similar interests; it provides an author's nook where budding novelists and prospective journalists can show off their talents by uploading their work and sharing it with the community.
Granted, the ability to upload a Great American Novel or a poem written in a moment of despair isn't necessarily the most attractive feature to most social-network fanatics, but having the option to upload that material highlights Bebo's willingness to provide its users with more than just a community to share interests. In fact, Bebo's author's nook provides an outlet for individual members of the community to express themselves, which is a key feature in any social network. That's not to say Facebook doesn't embrace individuality, but something as simple as an area for artists only enhances an already attractive service by providing those users with another way to have exposure in the community. I don't see what's holding Facebook back from doing the same thing.
Friendster: It's all about design
What's so bad about designing your own profile page? Facebook's policy of forcing every user into a single profile design befuddles me. Sure, some MySpace pages are gaudy and downright ugly, but that doesn't mean users shouldn't be allowed to express themselves in their profiles.
That's why I enjoy Friendster's profile layout tool, which allows users to create their own, personalized profile page without conforming to the boring design Facebook forces them into. They can modify colors, choose design schemes, and generally create a more aesthetically pleasing profile than what's possible on Facebook. In fact, I think it's safe to say that Friendster's profile production functionality is the best on the market and provides users with enough tools to design unique profiles without giving them too many options to turn the entire service into a MySpace freak show.
Social networks are all about being "you" and connecting with other individuals who want to do the same. I think profile design enters into that mix.
MySpace: Singing all the way to the bank MySpace and Facebook are often compared when we discuss social networks, but that doesn't mean they should be deemed equals. In fact, MySpace's Music integration not only makes it an attractive social network, but it also makes Facebook's service look comparatively boring.
MySpace Music is one of the best streaming music services on the Web. Allowing access to millions of songs without worry of copyright violation and offering the ability to share playlists with other MySpace users means the company's music service adds far more value to the social network. After all, networking with friends is fine for a while, but soon enough, you're going to want something more to keep you interested in the service, right? MySpace decided music was the way to keep you there and make you want to continue using its service. Facebook has yet to do it. Mark that as one (major) point for MySpace.