Facebook: The Ultimate Expression of the Old BBS Forum
A little later, when Byte Magazine kicked off BIX, users were given a more feature-rich conferencing system. But as was the case with CompuServe, users were fighting that same uphill battle of needing to own a computer and having a very slow connection (although by then modem speeds were up to 1200 baud).
Other services existed at the time. There was the Source as well as thousands of online bulletin board systems. Communities large and small grew up around each of them. Facebook, however, became the ultimate development of the original idea of a simple social forum or conferencing system, moving the concept light years beyond one of the old BBSes.
First, it operates in a broadband environment; second, it's supported by virtually every computing platform available, from PCs and Macs to iPhones and BlackBerrys. It's also different in that you got to choose your friends. While anyone on Facebook can request to be considered a friend, you have the ability to accept their offer or ignore them. This means that you can avoid some of the most disagreeable parts of the old forums and conferences-the mindless flame war.
During my time running a BBS and being a moderator on BIX, I found that I was frequently dismayed by the number of people who simply stopped using the service because two or three users went after each other in ways that could only be described as impolite and in some cases vicious. Now, with Facebook, you can just defriend someone who persists in such activity.
But Facebook gives other reasons for belonging. They have online role playing games (although those of us who own real farms generally find the attraction of "Farmville" to be a mystery) and online events. You can show photos, which was part of Facebook's original design and you can post videos. To add to the sense of community, you can create groups for people of like interest (I started one for N-scale model railroaders) and you can wrap all of this in a friendly, easy to use used environment. The nicest thing about Facebook is that you don't need to be a Web development expert to use it.
And perhaps that's the key to Facebook's success. There's no longer a high bar to admission-all you need is a cell phone. There's no massive learning curve as there was for the earlier conferencing systems and bulletin boards. You just go there and you use it. That alone has a lot to say about how Zuckerberg earned his honor and Facebook its success.