Facebook is a social networking website that was originally designed for college students, but is now open to anyone 13 years of age or older. Facebook users can create and customize their own profiles with photos, videos, and information about themselves. Friends can browse the profiles of other friends and write messages on their pages.
Each Facebook profile has a "wall," where friends can post comments. Since the wall is viewable by all the user's friends, wall postings are basically a public conversation. Therefore, it is usually best not to write personal messages on your friends' walls. Instead, you can send a person a private message, which will show up in his or her private Inbox, similar to an e-mail message.
Facebook allows each user to set privacy settings, which by default are pretty strict. For example, if you have not added a certain person as a friend, that person will not be able to view your profile. However, you can adjust the privacy settings to allow users within your network (such as your college or the area you live) to view part or all of your profile. You can also create a "limited profile," which allows you to hide certain parts of your profile from a list of users that you select. If you don't want certain friends to be able to view your full profile, you can add them to your "limited profile" list.
Another feature of Facebook, which makes it different from MySpace, is the ability to add applications to your profile. Facebook applications are small programs developed specifically for Facebook profiles. Some examples include SuperPoke (which extends Facebook's "poke" function) and FunWall (which builds on the basic "wall" feature). Other applications are informational, such as news feeds and weather forecasts. There are also hundreds of video game applications that allow users to play small video games, such as Jetman or Tetris within their profiles. Since most game applications save high scores, friends can compete against each other or against millions of other Facebook users.
Facebook provides an easy way for friends to keep in touch and for individuals to have a presence on the Web without needing to build a website. Since Facebook makes it easy to upload pictures and videos, nearly anyone can publish a multimedia profile. Of course, if you are a Facebook member or decide to sign up one day, remember to use discretion in what you publish or what you post on other user's pages. After all, your information is only as public as you choose to make it!
Updated: January 14, 2008