Facebook: A campus fad becomes a campus fact
The social-networking website isn't growing like it once did, but only because almost every US student is already on it.
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Unless Facebook shoots itself in the foot, it's here for the foreseeable future. Its major test will be the sale of the site, which many expect to happen in the next six to 12 months. Mr. Stutzman wouldn't be surprised to see a price of $1 billion. The questions are, who will buy it and why? And how will they make money from it?Skip to next paragraph
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Some scenarios are troubling. "Facebook is this incredible data-mining project," Stutzman says. The site owns the demographic information, interests, and social networks of millions – a dream for data lovers from advertisers to government agencies.
"That data," he says, "is worth so much more than [anyone] would pay for Facebook."
February 2004: Mark Zuckerberg launches Facebook at Harvard University with the aim of replacing traditional printed face books, which have photos and short bios of incoming students. The site is a hit, and within a few months it expands to other schools in the area.
December 2004: By this time, Zuckerberg had dropped out of Harvard and opened an office in Palo Alto, Calif., with a staff of eight. Facebook has about 1 million users.
Summer 2005: Most American universities have a Facebook network.
Fall 2005: Facebook expands to allow high school students to join.
December 2005: Facebook has expanded to universities in Britain, Canada, and Australia, among others. Estimated users: 11 million.
September 2006: Facebook opens registration to all Internet users. Rumors of purchase offers from Google and Yahoo begin to circulate. Estimated users: 12 million plus.
Sources: Facebook.com, Wikipedia
One of the most publicized warnings about Facebook comes from a slew of surveys showing that employers check Facebook profiles before making hiring decisions. This is where that picture of a student passed out next to a bed with toothpaste smeared on his face is least likely to elicit grudging admiration. Many such pictures exist on Facebook.
A recent survey by Christine Wiley and Mark Sisson, who work in the Career Services office at the University of Dayton, Ohio, not only confirms the use of Facebook by employers, but it also points to the disconnect that exists between students and the adults who make decisions about them.
The researchers polled 2,000 students at colleges in the Dayton area and more than 300 employers. They found that 40 percent of employers say it's OK to use Facebook when making a hiring decision; only 19 percent of the students agreed. Sixty percent of the students said employers should not consider a Facebook entry.
A slightly differently worded question underscored the difference in perception of Facebook.
Thirty-two percent of students said employers' use of Facebook is illegal; 42 percent said it's a violation of privacy.
Employers disagreed. Only one-quarter of them considered it unethical; 21 percent said it was a violation of privacy.
The researchers say the reason for this perception gap is most likely generational.
Such surveys are making students more careful of what they put in their profiles. Melissa Bush, a senior at the University of Dayton, works for the school's Career Services office. She uses the "grandma test" for the information she puts on Facebook.
"If Grandma shouldn't know, then it shouldn't be on there," she says.