Facebook applications gone too far?

Steve Contorno

By Brittany Abeijon

Slideshows, wish lists, cute puppies and profile tracking are remaking the face of Facebook. Previously, Facebook gave users the ability to poke someone, but now users can bite, hug, sucker punch or tickle not only their friends but any Facebook user. With more than 200 new applications added to Facebook, users have reacted differently all over the Internet.

Although Facebook did not develop all 219 applications, they have allowed corporations such as Forbes, iLike and Ford Models to launch applications through Facebook. A new application called “Lending Club” enables users to get a small loan from the Facebook community, fully online, at the lowest possible rate.

But the new applications have stirred up a large amount of users who disagree with the relevance of many new functions and feel a violation of privacy with others.

The new MySpace?

John Mikolay, junior in LAS, misses the old layouts and functions of Facebook that he enjoyed using because he knew all his Facebook friends personally. He claims the Facebook frenzy began when it branched out to everyone; it was previously only available to college students.

“Now, instead of seeing Joe Somebody (UIllinois), I see Joe Schmoe (No Network),” Mikolay said. “It was that precious bit of elitism that everyone worked so hard for.”

The addition of the general public and the new applications have caused many users to find Facebook strikingly similar to Tom Anderson’s MySpace.

“When Facebook lets a person change their background to a color or design that makes reading their page virtually impossible, they’ll be close to the exact same thing (as MySpace),” Mikolay said.

Although his disapproval of the “new” Facebook has caused him to avoid adding applications to his profile, Mikolay admits he would not actually delete his entire account.

“In the end, if my friends aren’t completely annoyed by it, I guess I really can’t be either,” he said. “It’s still a decent way to get in touch and stay in touch with people, despite becoming ever more annoying.”

New applications turning users off

Mick’Yela McGee, junior in LAS, has created a group titled “Facebook has gone too far” to voice her opinions of the new applications. This group is restricted to University of Illinois students. McGee has a MySpace and Facebook account but insists that the two are so similar that she feels the need to delete one of them.

One of the new applications, called Trakzor, lets users track who views their profiles, and lets others track who you view. Without proper understanding, this application appears to be a huge violation of privacy, and something Facebook previously promised would never happen.

“Whoever views my profile and the profiles I view should be private information. In some way I can see how it can be helpful, but it is also an invasion of privacy,” McGee said. “But where does it end and who is monitoring those that are monitoring the monitors? It’s a never-ending cycle that will eventually deprive us of our inalienable rights granted by the U.S. Constitution.”

Endless options

All profile-tracking aside, there seem to be endless quirky additions that any user can find to personalize.

Christina Bino, sophomore at Concordia University, admits that her Facebook addiction has tripled ever since they added applications, and she is part of a global Facebook group that says just that.

Bino has added several applications to her own profile including graffiti, Piknic, games, iLike, FaceOff, slideshows, quizzes, Hot or Not, X Me, (fluff)Friends, top friends, free gifts and Honesty Box.

While some of these include graphics or games similar to MySpace, the Honesty Box application allows users to anonymously send messages to their friends while removing any inhibitions and letting people be completely honest. This application is used by 360,297 Facebook account holders worldwide.

MySpace is known for its top friends list, an area on every user’s page where they can select their “top friends” to display for everyone that views their page. Now, Facebook has cloned this feature through Web sites such as Slide, Inc. and Top Friends. These applications allow close to three million users to choose up to 99 of their friends to display on their profiles along with pictures and nicknames for each one.

“Putting applications aside, Facebook is still more personal and private and I prefer it a lot more than MySpace,” Bino said. “I feel that applications haven’t changed the appeal of Facebook at all. The only disadvantage I can think of is the amount of time I spend, or waste, on the Web site.”

Facebook for professionals

Murtz Jaffer hates Facebook applications. As chief content officer and TV editor for insidepulse.com, former producer at Entertainment Tonight Canada, and reporter for the Toronto Sun, he has been regarded as the world’s foremost reality television expert because of his ability to predict, analyze and map out how programs will go.

Jaffer created an anti-application group because he was fed up with seeing programs that Facebook did not authorize pop up on all of his friends’ pages. Jaffer uses Facebook to stay in touch with business contacts and he liked how private and professional it was.

“I think that the inclusion of all of the applications turned it into an online playground for children, and if I wanted that, I would have just stuck to MySpace,” he said.

Now that Facebook is widely available to the public, many users find the new applications childish.

“I think all of them are designed for teenagers. Graffiti? Fortune cookies? Music sharing? You can get all of these on your own. They do not need to be attached to Facebook,” Jaffer said.

Many users find extra applications providing links to pictures, videos and sound clips unnecessary when their favorite presidential candidate, political views, favorite bands and current top movies can already be provided in the basic information of every profile.

“The reason Facebook has been so successful is because it was so different from (MySpace),” Jaffer said. “I believe that all of the new applications that Facebook has allowed are just designed to make the site more like MySpace and I do not understand why they felt this was necessary.”