By: Margarett Yuhico
Jane Doe has invited you to join Jane’s personal and private community
It’s all part of the craze called “Friend of a Friend” networking, FOAF for short, one of the fastest growing categories of websites. There are already over 100 networking sites on the internet.
SO WHAT IS FOAF AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
Your life is built up of a series of overlapping social circles: family, closest friends, classmates, high school friends, roommates, and co-workers. FOAF programs make these links between people visible. You may have a cousin who has a friend who has a brother who attends school with you and so on.
They can be used for business, dating, social get-togethers, and reuniting with old friends. All you have to do is sign up, create a profile and then begin inviting friends to create your own network. And in turn they do the same creating a network of thousands of people.
For example, on Friendster.com alone I’m connected to well over 20,000 people. Most are 3rd degree friends, friends of friends of friends.
Want a network exclusively for your college or university?
Visit Thefacebook.com; a fun college based social network where “poking” someone is a form of saying “hi.”
Thefacebook is modeled after traditional schools’ facebooks, booklets with names, photos and interests of other students. The site opened in February originally intended for Harvard students. The five student creators rapidly expanded the network to now 37 universities and hope to expand to 200 American colleges by fall.
Unfortunately you can’t join until your college is added. Right now it includes schools like Yale, Brown, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, UF, and many more.
Thefacebook allows students to connect to friends from their school and other universities, send messages, list their class schedule and summer vacation plans, and allow them to divulge as much or as little personal contact information as they like.
DANGER & OBSESSION ALERT
Most information on these networks, like your full name, birthday, and location, is optional but most people fill it in regardless. In a world where privacy is shrinking, FOAF profiles let the very thing you should be guarding-your identity-out in the public.
Privacy advocates are worried these networks will be eventually abused by SPAM or that the network has a possibility of spreading viruses.
Others argue that these social networks of profiles sometimes become a voyeuristic addiction. Some check it daily and spend large amounts of time surfing profiles and messaging people.
THE BACKLASH ON FOAF
So it was a good idea in the beginning, a virtual reunion of old friends with just a few clicks of a mouse, but suddenly the invites to join each group and confirm friends are filling your inbox and becoming a nuisance. You may even be bombarded with people you never wanted to keep in touch with.
Sick of it? So are a bunch of network users. Invitations to join networking services, and the constant nagging to validate friends are causing some to turn against these services by filtering messages and cancelling accounts.
In a CNN interview, Wired.com writer, Leander Kahney, attributes the backlash to the amount of work users have to do. You have to join, write a profile, invite friends, and then confirm future friends and write testimonials about other people. It takes so much time, which is the opposite of what networking was supposed to do.
Annoyed? Here’s what you can do: filter the e-mail, ignore requests, or even unsubscribe.
But if you haven’t joined one and are still interested, below are a few sites to consider.
Popular FOAF Networks