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As of last Saturday, Harvard’s online Facebook empire had expanded to all but three Ivy League institutions—but one recently settled colony is attempting to stage a cyber-revolution against the site creator’s invasion.
After three weeks of restricting use to the Harvard community, designer of the online networking site thefacebook.com, Mark E. Zuckerberg ’06, opened it up to students at Columbia, Stanford and Yale, and then to Dartmouth and Cornell.
But last week, some members of the CUcommunity, a site which Columbia students launched in early February—about the same time the Facebook first came to Harvard—raised a challenge to what they perceived to be Zuckerberg’s encroachment upon their site’s territory.
In an effort to retaliate, Columbia sophomore Cody Hess—an “elite” member of the CUcommunity, by dint of his active participation—declared a schoolwide “Google-Bomb” of the Facebook, Harvard University and Columbia’s daily newspaper.
Google-Bombing, a recent trend among techno-savvy internet users that allows groups of united participants to manipulate Google’s search technology, has already resulted in several widely publicized cases of internet mischief.
For example, after a barrage of misleading links were posted all over the Internet, the search terms “miserable failure” now yield the Bush administration’s official website as the top result. A search for “safetyschool” brings up www.yale.edu.
Hess hopes to achieve a similar effect with his plan, whereby a search of “CUcommunity ripoff” yields the Facebook, “worthless safety school” produces Harvard’s official website, and “worthless rag newspaper” brings up the Columbia Spectator.
Hess said that the newspaper had “created a sort of competition between the sites” by giving the Facebook more coverage than CUcommunity.
In fact, the Spectator has run one article on each of the services.
Hess said that the Google-Bomb is meant to “point people our way and show that we were there first.”
“We need more interschool tension in the Ivy League. It’s important for people at Columbia to know that they’re better than people at other colleges,” he said.
Hess’s post, which is visible on his CUcommunity profile, called on all Columbia students to publish the phony links wherever they could so as to speed up the process.
The post received 48 comments from other users, as supporters voiced allegiance with Hess, distaste for Harvard and recommendations for the plan’s execution.
At least one poster voiced his dissent.
“We don’t need to fight them,” sophomore Matan Ariel wrote in his response. “Our site is good without trashing others.”
Others questioned the inclusion of the Spectator as a target of vitriol.
Sophomore Rob Spinella, who came up with the idea for the Google-Bomb, said he did not think the plan was realistic, calling it “sort of a joke.”
“I don’t really think people are going to take it seriously,” he said.
Spinella also stressed that he had no problem with the Facebook. Although he said he disagreed with its closed viewing policy, he thought it would have little effect on the CUcommunity, to which 1900 of the university’s 6,700 undergraduates belong.
Thefacebook.com has attracted more than 85 percent of Harvard’s 6,600 undergraduates since its launch and is growing three times faster than CUcommunity, according to Zuckerberg.
Spinella updated his CUcommunity journal on Saturday with a message detailing the birth of the Google-Bomb.
“I was pretty annoyed by thefacebook.com’s attempt to rip off CUcommunity’s idea and usurp our online community,” the message read. “I thought to myself, somebody ought to Google-Bomb The Facebook and knock them into Google obscurity, as if they never existed.”
Zuckerberg, who had not heard of the Google-Bomb until this Saturday, was surprised at Columbia’s reaction. “I’m just doing this because I think it’s something that’s cool,” he said.
“The person who’s creating that is feeling some serious insecurity or competition,” Zuckerberg added.
Zuckerberg said he has not advertised the website at the other schools because he wants to see how the network would grow organically.
—Staff writer Leon Neyfakh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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