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January 16, 2008

Waste Time With Your Friends

Not long ago, Gelf told journalists everything they wanted to know about Facebook but were afraid to ask. With the breakneck pace of Facebook's development, the section on Facebook applications could use some updating. At the time of the original article (way back in August), Facebook Platform was just in its infancy. Months later, the apps have gone from a few, mostly useless programs that are good for a quick diversion, to many mostly useless programs that can occupy users for hours on end. Below, Gelf highlights some of the more interesting and fun apps popping up in a news-feed near you.



Easily the most addictive of the new batch of Facebook apps, Scrabulous provides all of the fun of America's Favorite Word Game® without any of the physical objects nor contact with other people (nor a license, an oversight that ignited Hasbro's ire and may cost Facebook users this application, mid-game(s)). The concept is simple. Using a flash board, players in the same room or across the world play each other, up to four at a time, with traditional Scrabble rules. You can challenge your friends or strangers who have downloaded the app. You can play a single move periodically and check back for your opponents' counter the next time they log on to Facebook, or two or more players can sit at their computers for around an hour, constantly refreshing their browsers and writing nasty comments in the chat box while waiting for their turn. Built-in features such as a two-letter word list and Scrabble dictionary can turn even a novice into the next Michael Cresta.

Usefulness: 3
Addictiveness: 10
Time Consumption: 9


Another of my favorite apps is RateBeer. The idea is also a basic one. You rate beers from RateBeer's comprehensive database, on a scale of one to 10 stars. You can also add a comment with their rating. So why is it so great? RateBeer has taken the fundamental barroom conversation, "How do you like this beer?" and brought it worldwide. There are many dedicated users who rate hundreds of beers, and the aggregate scores represent something of a general consensus for the title of best (and worst) beers in the world. Favorite beers are a matter of personal taste and experience. The comments allow users to share a brief thought with their rating. Comments can be factual (John Smith: 2 Stars "The Natty Ice of England"), instructional (Guiness Draught: 6 Stars "Goes great with ice cream in it. Seriously. Try It."), or deeply personal (San Miguel: 7 Stars "Best enjoyed in a goblet during hangover brunch on Las Ramblas in Barcelona"; Schneider Aventinus: 10 Stars "All-time favorite beer.")

Usefulness: 7
Addictiveness: 7
Time Consumption: 6


The Microsoft of Facebook apps, iLike is the most ubiquitous and corporate among the group. It has an array of features, all related to music. The app accesses your favorite-artists list and provides you with relevant information such as local concerts, record releases, and video postings. You can also dedicate a song to a friend or play the iLike music challenge. iLike is most significant because it shows the marketing power of Facebook. The fact that an application has been able to harness personal information from Facebook and use it to provide users with content they want might be part of the reason that the real Microsoft bought a stake in Facebook that values the company at $15 billion.

Usefulness: 8
Time Consumption: 5


Like iLike, Flixster is an increasingly popular application built on expressing personal taste. You're invited by your friends to take a movie-compatibility test to see how your tastes match up. Once you've downloaded the application, you can rate any film and provide commentary. Part of Flixster's appeal lies in the short trivia quizzes to which you respond and challenge your friends. The most frequent notifications for Flixster users are usually along the lines of "Adam Connor-Simons scored 60% on the 'Name the Disney Character Quiz' " or "Vincent Valk created a movie quiz called 'Real or Fake Boobs?' "

Usefulness: 5
Addictiveness: 6
Time consumption: 6

Last.FM Music Player

Last.FM is a website that tracks what songs you listen to on your computer or iPod. Based on those tracks, it ranks your most popular songs and artists, makes smart recommendations, and is also a social-networking site where neighbors with similar music tastes can interact. The site features a personalized radio station based on songs and artists that the user likes. The Facebook app simply takes that radio station and places it on your profile page, so that anyone can listen to your musical tastes. It also works like an iPod shuffle so that you can listen to a random selection of your music anywhere you like.

Usefulness: 8
Addictiveness: 4
Time Consumption: 5

Where I've Been
Where I've Been

This application puts a map on the user's profile page with different shaded areas for Countries I've Visited, Countries I'd Like to Visit, and Countries I've Lived In. Ideally, it should be good for starting conversations along the lines of "So how did you come to live in Iceland?" But in reality, it's most often used as a checklist by people (often study-abroad students) who enjoy admiring how many countries they've been to.

Usefulness: 4
Addictiveness: 6
Time Consumption: 3

Some other popular apps, in brief:

Shelfari Books
A virtual bookshelf on which users can list their favorite books, books they're reading, and books they'd like to read.

Red Sox Nation, Yankees Faithful, and the like
Sports-fan applications that allow users to show the world that real fans have the team in their hearts and Facebook profiles. Interestingly, both are run by the same people at Citizen Sports Network.

Similar to a regular Facebook wall, only with a few more features and many more bugs.

SuperPoke The standard-bearer in the Facebook-poke arms race.

A canvas on your profile page for your more artistic friends to write colorful messages and for your less gifted friends to fail miserably.

Vampires, Zombies, and other Facebook predators
Those who have been bitten bite their friends and pass on the disease of utterly useless Facebook interactions.

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- Internet
- posted on Jan 17, 08
David G

For tried-and-true time wasting, I really like Traveler IQ Challenge. Fun and depressing at the same time!

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