Monday, November 09, 2009

Is FACEBOOK the new email?

Back in 1993 I had the following conversation with one of my relatives:

BILL: Just give me your email address and I'll email it to you.

RELATIVE: I don't have an email account. Why would I? Only you techno-geeks need email.

In 1994 I had the following conversation with the same relative:

BILL: Just give me your postal address and I'll mail it to you.

RELATIVE: Better- I'll give you my email address.

BILL: I thought you didn't have an email account.

RELATIVE: Only a techno-geek like you wouldn't know that everyone has email now.

At one time most people (outside of academia) did not have email. Now everyone has email. It is quite standard to have email on business cards and to ask for someones email address (are business cards still standard?).

I have run into people who are surprised that I don't have a FACEBOOK page. But here is the question: will having a FACEBOOK page be on the same level as having email in that everyone is expected to have it, and if you don't then you are just so 2005? My question is not tied to FACEBOOK per se--- I really mean will it be standard to be in some social network. Is having a webpage already standard?

(NOTE: My spell program tells me that its FACEBOOK not Facebook or facebook. So at least this time the capitol letters are not my idea.)


  1. E-mail is a convenience, like a phone number. Facebook is too social and open. More private, introverted folks would never take to it.

  2. @anon1: Curious. 'Introvert' used to mean that you spend time online because you're too lame to interact with real people. Now you're taking the meaning to a whole new level. I'm not so sure I'm an introvert anymore.

  3. "NOTE: My spell program tells me that its FACEBOOK not Facebook or facebook. So at least this time the capitol letters are not my idea."

    I can't think of a better illustration of the limitations of spell checking!

  4. My parents do not have e-mail.

  5. anon1: I'm an undergraduate so I might have a different perspective, but basically 99% of people my age have a facebook. Obviously many of them, myself included, are introverts. Facebook is what you make it, it doesn't have to be open at all, you have the power to make it very private and selective about who can access your information.

    Also I found quite a few of our CS professors on facebook (no I didn't add them)

  6. I think it won't pass beyond the email, though in the academic world it appears to be pseudo-mandatory to have a website with a list of publications, at least. However, with DBLP, arXiv and other indexing services working so well, even a website is no longer necessary, but only a matter of status, just a line in your CV.

    I left Facebook a few days ago (well, deactivated my account). Curious that you raise this question now.

    By the way, a possible standard social network for academics might be

  7. Facebook has many detractions, but one nice part is that in some sense it will be with you *for life*. This can't be said for email, or even postal addresses. Upon graduating from undergrad, many of my friends changed their email and for those I didn't get in time, Facebook is the only reliable source of contact information. However, this is not unique to Facebook and I imagine that some better (and more free) system could be developed.

    Even in the academic community this lack-of-permanence of email addresses and webpages can be a nuisance. When people switch jobs their old page can still out-pagerank their new page, and this can be temporarily confusing.

  8. As much as Zuckerberg wants it, I don't think that Facebook will ever be as ubiquitous as email. Email works, to a large degree, because it's an open protocol. Facebook is neither open nor does it qualify as a protocol. While some people will prefer to communicate via whatever happens to be the new hotness of online messaging, no single proprietary channel will eclipse its open standard equivalent.

  9. As long as we're on the auto-correct issue, you might want to change "If" to "Is" in the post title. =)

  10. No, 10^100 WAVE is the new email.

  11. Having a facebook account is much more analogous to having a website than to having email. I bet most of your relatives don't have websites. Facebook just lets you build a website in a much easier way than the alternative, so it's allowed more people to have a "website."

  12. it will be with you *for life*

    I know what you mean, but the idea that something will be there "for life" when it's only existed for a few years, and that runs over protocols that have only existed for a few decades, on a network that has only existed for a few decades longer than the protocols, is kind of absurd. It is highly likely that Facebook will no longer exist a couple decades from now.

  13. I remember when I thought I'd always have my GeoCities page.

  14. Capitol letters? What a capital idea!