Facebook will soon be available to everyone
Posted 9/11/2006 10:20 PM ET
By Janet Kornblum, USA TODAY
Facebook, the online networking site once the exclusive terrain of college students, will soon be opening up to the world.
The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company will soon be allowing anyone with a valid e-mail address to sign up on the site and join a regional network. It will launch just over 500 networks in the USA and abroad, according to company spokeswoman Melanie Deitch.

When Facebook first launched two years ago, it was only open to people who had valid college e-mail addresses. Last September, the site opened up to high school students. And in May, it opened up to selected work networks. Now it will be open to virtually anyone.

And that could spell trouble for Facebook, says Danah Boyd, a social media researcher for Yahoo.

“Already, the high school students, college students and corporate accounts are having a hard time dealing with each other’s presence,” Boyd says. “I don’t even want to think what will happen when Mom and Dad can join.”

There is no date set for the expanded registration, says Facebook’s Deitch.

Facebook originally had planned to launch it today but decided to delay the announcement after tens of thousands of people in its 9.3-million-user network protested a different change the company made to its site last week. Last Tuesday it launched a feature that turned people’s personal information into customized news headlines. On Thursday, Facebook apologized to users and added privacy controls allowing people to limit the type of information sent over the network.

Facebook needs “to do a much better job of communicating with our user base,” Deitch says. But she acknowledges that some users may be upset by the latest plans. Users have been upset nearly every time Facebook has expanded, she says.

“I find the strong possibility of another backlash,” said Ben Parr, a Northwestern University junior who helped organize the protests against the news feeds. “It depends on the privacy features they include.” Deitch says there will be privacy controls.

Currently, when people sign up, they create profiles that include as much information as they want to give — everything from their relationship status to political affiliations. Each person can browse profiles of anyone on his or her network. However, they can also search for people outside of their networks — and gain access to their profiles by asking permission.

While the networks are far from private, students especially have grown to see Facebook as their private homes online.

And this move could make them feel like they’ve lost that, says Andrew Ledbetter, a graduate student at the University of Kansas.

“Many Facebook users like the site because of its traditional image of exclusivity,” he says.


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