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Smile! You’re on Facebook!

Photo feature fuels traffic; Zuckerberg brainchild now 10th most popular site on net

Procrastinators on campuses across the nation have reason to rejoice: facebook.com unveiled its long-awaited expanded photo feature last week, allowing users at about a third of the colleges on the site’s network to create photo albums and upload an unlimited number of images to their personal profiles.

Chris R. Hughes ’06, the spokesman for the popular social networking site, said the feature would go live at all schools within about two weeks, but as with the initial rollout, the creators are in no rush.

“We wanted to take our time and make sure that we were doing it right,” Hughes wrote in an e-mail. “We thought it’d be better to put out a comprehensive, functional feature rather than rush through something as huge as unlimited photo storage. There’s no reason to go too fast and not be able to deliver on the promises we make.”

In addition to creating online photo albums, facebook.com users can identify, or “tag,” the people who appear in their pictures. This new feature projects a white box around a person when the cursor is moved over that person’s name in the photo caption.

Facebook.com is the 10th most trafficked site on the internet, with over 8.5 million unique visitors in September alone, according to Hughes.

Although other networking sites such as Friendster and MySpace have long allowed users to upload multiple photos, Hughes promised in September that the site would offer “more photos than any other comparable site.” Facebook.com is now the first of its kind to offer unlimited capacity.

“Myspace offers its users 12 photos,” Hughes wrote. “We offer unlimited. Enough said.”

Alka R. Tandon ’07 said the inclusion of extra photos would provide a more accurate portrayal of facebook.com users.

“I like it because you can see what people look like,” she said.

But Eddie Y. Lee ’08 cautioned that the new feature could have its downsides.

“A good part is that you’re able to share with others your experiences,” he said. “But the bad part is that it promotes procrastination even more and there’s a privacy issue that is potentially a little dangerous.”

Murtaza M. Hussain, a spokesman for online social networking newcomer XuQa.com, said that unlimited photo uploading is more a catchphrase than a reality.

“Take it from an insider,” Hussain wrote in an e-mail. “We count on the fact that no one uploads that much. If each facebook user uploaded even 500 MB pictures, their site would be down within hours, and the same case with us.”

Hughes disputed that assertion. Asked if the uploading capacity really was unlimited, Hughes wrote simply, “Oh yeah, baby.”

The creators of XuQa tried to make a splash earlier this fall by one-upping facebook.com’s previously scanty photo capabilities.

“As part of our commitment of kicking the facebook, we’re rolling out 5 GB Photo storage for all our members (absolutely free!),” read the e-mail advertisement received by many Harvard students during the first week of October.

But Hussain acknowledged that XuQa faces an uphill battle.

“There is no doubt they are the 800 pound giant and we’re the little ant,” he wrote.

—Staff writer Sam Teller can be reached at steller@fas.harvard.edu.
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