Facebook killing its network pages

Sometimes when I talk with newspaper people about the value of incorporating social networking tools and techniques into their websites, I get the counterargument: Haven't Facebook and Myspace already won that battle?

Today while looking for a screenshot to use in a presentation, I had a devil of a time finding the Augusta, Ga., regional page on Facebook -- even though I'm a member of that network.

Out of desperation I finally played "guess the URL" and managed to find this:

Facebook screen shot

The box at the top says: "Facebook will soon be removing Network Pages from ths site. While you will still be in your current networks, you will not be able to access Network Pages such as this one. ... You can use Groups to connect with the people around you."

These networks -- based first on college/university affiliation, then on regional geography -- have been foundational for Facebook, and this seems like a huge shift, abandoning "people physically near you" as a central discovery model.

Groups might sound like an OK replacement for networks, but they draw no distinction between "where you live" and "people who hate Joe Baloney." Go group-hunting sometime. You'll drown in it.

For those of us operating in the local media space, this may be a small bit of a good news. While local life may be a niche, it's a pretty big and powerful niche just begging to be developed.


Another interpretation would be that Facebook has found that "local" has not been a profitable enough dimension to organize on. They can sell local ads based on your IP address rather than the region you say you are affiliated with. Current IP address seems more accurate for ad targeting because people often are still members of networks that they used to live in.

The result of no network pages is that I can't expose, to my local community, my disapproval of an emotionally exploitative link. When I got a super wall hug sent to me and it said, 12 local members are your friends and 6 say they would like to date you. You can never find out who those 6 are. In clicking on this notice trying to find out more, I found it opened a dating website with a long questionnaire that is exploitative and damaging because it tells 1 in 5 of the folks who fill it in that they don't fall into the right categories to be matched by the site's matching system invented by a crank doctor in Australia. Anyway, the site is not part of facebook and does not lead you to finding out who the 6 members are, and with no network page you can't raise some opinion in your locality, including with the 6 members if they exist, to take a dim view of this offensiveness.