I've been using the Internet for many years, like many others to say the least. I'm fairly new to Facebook though; I started using it only this year.
I used to be asked: what is the Internet, and answered that it's a lot of interconnected computer networks with lots of data storage. The question I get nowadays is: what is Facebook and Twitter. The latter is easier. My answer is that Twitting is like sending SMS to everyone with a Twitter account, and that you can follow people, which means you get all their Twits.
What is Facebook then? It's a network of People. Each has a page, which can be a sort of diary. Then come the questions:
- Should I join Facebook? If your friends are on Facebook, you definitely should.
- What is the point of being on Facebook? You can see what your friends are up to. You can share something that you saw or something that happened to you. You can invite people to events. You can play Facebook games. In a very limited way it's like Twitter; instead of sending an SMS to everyone, you put text and pictures on your Facebook page.
- Can anyone read my page? You can decide who can; your friends can, i.e. your Facebook friends.
- But again, what is the point? Well, I guess you have to try it to find out. Explaining it makes it just sound trivial and rather silly. But it isn't.
And now: Internet vs Social Networks. Why this headline? Because the two are very different. Internet is about computers, social networks are about people. To social networks, the Internet is infrastructure. It's plumbing. It's an utter necessity, it doesn't make the heart jump, except when it isn't working.
Internet vs Social Networks is also about companies. The Internet companies know that Internet is plumbing and that social networks is the current and future big thing. So they want to join the social networking business. The problem is how to get in. Can it be done by building something new on top of the Internet, to make it a bit like Facebook, but different? Google is trying this, but they haven't succeeded. Will they ever succeed? Is there room for another Facebook? No one knows the answer. Google's Orkut hasn't been successful enough. MySpace seems to have merged with Facebook.
My guess is that Google has failed in social networks, because they are not the right sort of company to succeed in social networks. Their vocabulary, i.e. their thinking, contains words like "network", "search", "server", "site", "email". To succeed they would have to use terms like "I", "friend", "share", "show", "who", "now". Very different words, which lead to very different thoughts. For an individual it's difficult to change his thinking. For a company it's much more difficult. It can be done, but it takes many years. I'm sure Google will try!