So I finally succumbed to pressure from my friends and colleagues and got myself onto Facebook. This may come as a bit of a surprise given my rather low opinion of MySpace, but then again, while there are similarities, Facebook is not MySpace.
What is the difference? Two things. One is aesthetics. There are none of these awful seizure-inducing profile pages with illegibly tiny pink text on an orange background, and no annoying background music, and in their place is a slick, clean, responsive, easy to use Ajax driven interface.
The second — and much more important — thing: developers, developers, developers. MySpace has hitherto had something of a reputation for sending in the legal heavies after people who write widgets and add-ons for the platform. Facebook is the exact opposite, and positively encourages it, having released a complete API with full instructions on how to make a Facebook application.
This makes it the Swiss Army Knife of social networking websites, since there is so much that you can do with the platform. You can integrate Facebook with a whole lot of other services such as your own WordPress blog (my own blog posts get reproduced on my Facebook profile via the RSS feed) or even Wikipedia if you are that way inclined. A particularly useful application that has recently been launched is Google Reader Shared Items, which allows you to share interesting items in your RSS feeds with your friends very easily. Scoble loves it.
I think sites such as Facebook are also well placed to supplant e-mail as the primary one-to-one communication means of the Internet. Because you set up a network of friends, there is an element of trust there that makes it much easier to filter out spam, phishing and viruses. Of course, these nefarious characters tend to be a pretty crafty bunch, so vigilance is still necessary, but since there is an identifiable element of trust there, it is easier to filter it out or even block it altogether, by setting your profile so that only people you have accepted as friends can contact you through the system.