“Web 2.0″ was one of the biggest buzz words last year. It means different things to different people, but in general, “Web 2.0″ is the idea of user-generated and controlled content on the web — the idea of moving away from static web “pages” to more dynamic web applications (anything from google earth to ebay). This idea has been at the forefront of web programming for years, but not many companies have succeeded in implementing it. Facebook, which has “Web 2.0″ at the heart of its design, is one of a handful of successful applications.
The very idea of Facebook is a user generated set of profiles. Without a large enough ratio of profiles to community, the application would be worthless, which is why it made perfect sense to gradually roll out the application. This doesn’t explain why Facebook is viewed more highly than MySpace and several other social networking sites, though. I think that there are three other reasons for this. Firstly, the ease with which one can customize his profile, as well as the many different modes of doing so, are better than any of Facebook’s competitors. Second, Facebook successfully (generally…) walks a fine line between censoring crude content and ads (and who can view YOUR content) and allowing freedom for consumer-created content. The third reason is the ease of consumer-created Facebook applications (those annoying viral applications like “join the pirates in the fight against the ninjas!!!, as well as some pretty cool ones like a stock market exchange). Any programmer can grab the necessary documentation to interface with the Facebook API in short time and be merrily on his way to creating the next Hobo Wars.
Facebook definitely has its problems, such as the mass of annoying viral applications, but it is still a work in progress. Think of the basic state it was in four years ago when we could first get it at Grove City, and think of where it is today. It could be anywhere four years from now, but I’m guessing that it will have more of a focus around consumer-created applications and become a programming environment in its own right, much as the World Wide Web has today.