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Mark E. Zuckerberg ’06 and thefacebook.com may be facing a bit of competition in the world of cyber networking.
Earlier this week, Aaron J. Greenspan ’06 launched FaceNet, a website providing Harvard affiliates with services similar to those offered by thefacebook.com, a popular site that has already attracted more than 7,000 students and alumni through friendship networks.
Greenspan said that more than 50 people signed up for FaceNet, which is run by the Student Entrepreneurship Council (SEC), the night it was launched.
Despite the similarities between FaceNet and thefacebook.com—both allow users to create personal profiles and develop a network of online friends—Greenspan, who served as the president of the SEC, said both sites can thrive at Harvard.
“It is possible for multiple sites to co-exist,” Greenspan said. “The SEC supports entrepreneurship, and we applaud Mark’s efforts.”
“Competition is a very real part of entrepreneurship,” he added.
But users of both sites said it would be unlikely for Greenspan’s site to achieve the remarkable success of Zuckerberg’s, which ballooned in its second week from 650 to over 4,000 members.
As of last night, just over 100 students had joined the FaceNet.
Jeffrey B. Miller ’05, a member of both sites, said that students who have already developed their network of friends on thefacebook.com may hesitate to switch to an entirely different website.
“The FaceNet isn’t as easy to use as thefacebook.com. It might be too little, too late,” said Miller. “It will be hard to compete with thefacebook.com when thefacebook.com already has about 5,000 members and lots of momentum.”
Jonathan G. Sherman ’07 said he agrees that many students may not bother to redo their profiles and friendship networks.
“I don’t know too much about the FaceNet website, but I don’t think that students are going to switch to a completely new website,” says Sherman.
Greenspan’s FaceNet is an extension of the HouseSYSTEM website that he created in August. In addition to the social networking capabilities provided by FaceNet, the HouseSYSTEM site also allows visitors from the Harvard community to buy and sell textbooks, browse alumni job listings, view a calendar of important upcoming events at Harvard and check Harvard e-mail accounts.
“HouseSYSTEM is a very useful site, but only one out of four people at Harvard know about it,” said Greenspan.
Zuckerberg’s roommate Christopher R. Hughes ’06, who also helps administrate the thefacebook.com, said he does not view FaceNet as a competitor.
“We don’t really have an attitude of competition,” Hughes said. “I’ve seen the FaceNet website and it looks fine. It looks like an interesting website. But we’re not worried or competitive. That’s not our attitude at all.”
Greenspan originally launched the Universal House Facebook on the HouseSYSTEM website in October of last year. This site integrated individual House facebooks into a comprehensive online facebook.
When Greenspan realized that students were willing to disclose a great deal of personal information on thefacebook.com, he decided to add the new FaceNet features onto his universal facebook.
Thefacebook.com has capitalized on its success at Harvard by expanding to other universities, including Yale, Stanford, Columbia and MIT.
And Sherman said that he thinks the popularity of social networking websites at Harvard and other schools is not simply a fad.
“I think they have staying power. It is an easier way to get in touch with people that you otherwise may lose touch with,” said Sherman.
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