Sharing is good, but only with a few hundred of your closest friends

Metcalfe’s Law says that the usefulness of a network grows exponentially with its size. A recent New Yorker article by John Cassidy (pp 50-59, 5/15/06) pointed out that if this were the case, MySpace would be far more useful than Facebook. My calculations are that it would be about 100 times more useful.

MySpace has 70 million members. Facebook has 7.5 million.

However, if usefulness is measured in activity, you can’t get much better than Two-thirds of all members are on the site every day, and they spend an average of 20 minutes there!

If “stickiness” isn’t a measure of usefulness, consider this fact. Cassidy reports that since a recent Facebook policy change, members can upload an unlimited number of photos to their Profiles. Boy, are they enjoying that free ride! 

The volume of photos added to the site is unsurpassed anywhere on the web. One and a half million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day!

Other sites, most notably Yahoo’s, also have members, and unlimited uploading bandwidth. So why isn’t Flickr the leader? After all, it has far fewer restrictions to membership (just a Yahoo account), and far more open sharing between members (anyone can see everything).

Here’s a hint: That’s the explanation. Cassidy suggests restrictions add value to this type of network. Who wants to share really interesting photographs* with everyone in the world?

Unlike MySpace and Flickr, Facebook is a gated community. Only if you have an email address from one of the 2,000 colleges and universities it recognizes can you get in and establish a profile. And even within its walls, there is limited sharing of profile information between members who don’t designate each other as friends. Its very exclusivity encourages sharing.

* Speaking of interesting photos, many have discovered that you can have a fun, if useless, online experience by going to and searching on the tag “interesting.” But it’s a pain to browse through pages with very limited numbers of thumbnails on each. I discovered this cool way to view 500 of the most interesting photos of the day — and any other day you specify. Thank you for wasting more of my time!