Review: Facebook

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June 4, 2007

I’m hooked.

I thought MySpace was fun because I found a few local friends. Then I thought was fun because I got to track down some people I went to high school with and some people I lived in Pine Point NWT with. Doing a mash-up between MySpace and Classmates, and you get, a place where you can find former classmates as well as former workmates.

Facebook uses a lot of AJAX on their site which gives everything a nice, fluid feel, from a “user experience” perspective. At the same time, their code is heavy on the PHP side which makes it all pretty snappy. I won’t go any deeper on the ‘geek’ level than that, or it would turn into a full-on geek fest.

There are drawbacks of course – you can’t necessarily view a person’s full profile until they agree to add you as a friend, or unless they are in a similar ‘network’ as you, where a network can be a region (‘Ottawa, ON’), workplace, school, etc. I find it disappointing though that while Facebook, I thought, was supposed to cater to the college-age-and-older crowd, the high school networks will only let you join if you are a current student at the high school. It’s also a little annoying that I need to have a St Lawrence College Email address to join my old college network.

Last but not least, it’s annoying that browsing the site with a text-based browser looks pretty awful – my current client site blocks Facebook as a Dating/Personals site through’s filter tools, so today when I was trying to reply to a number of messages coming in from a few friends I was catching up with, I needed to SSH into my Linux box at home and view it there. And since they do browser detection, and promote Firefox and Opera, trying to view the site in elinks failed miserably, but a quick configuration hack saved the day. Still, trying to get anything done through elinks, which will run Javascript code, was useless because of the pop-up layers on the pages with captchas for adding friends on the site.

Overall though, I’m very pleased with the Facebook interface, and find the site very easy to use. I found a LOT of people that I went to high school with, but only a few of them were really ‘friends’ (and even that term I use quite loosely), so I don’t think I’ll add everyone who I completely recognize.

But finding some friends from Pine Point, NWT, like the little sister of one of my good friends, or one of the girls from my elementary school classes that I always wondered where she ended up, is pretty darn cool.

I just wish their search engine were a little more robust. Right now, doing an ‘advanced’ search will only search your current friends, so I’m unable to search for names of people I went to school with that may have a common name, narrowed down to an age range. Searching for “Joe Smith” could return hundreds of hits on the name, but I cannot narrow down those search results to only search for “Joe Smith” profiles that are between the ages of 32 and 34, fitting the profile of who I’d have gone to school with.

So a big hello to any of the youth group from Kingston that wander by here, or anyone from the high schools that I’ve added, people from Lakeshore Camp or Youth Conventions, or to old friends from Pine Point – it’s been a blast catching up with so many of you!

It’s interesting to see the influence of life on people and seeing where they end up. Friends that grew up in church and seeing where they are now, people I’d have never expected to be going to church sharing their faith, or people that have always been indifferent either way. It saddens me, of course, to see how many of my church friends have divorced over the years or are single parents – not to be judgmental in the least, it’s just hard to see friends go through that when I see the grief my own sister goes through with her divorce. It’s nothing I’d ever wish on someone.