Number of Social Networking Users Has Doubled Since 2007

According to a new report from Forrester Research published on Mashable today, the number of Social Networking Users Has Doubled Since 2007. Of course, this is limited to the US, and it still doesn’t put social networking in the top spot in terms of how adults use the internet. In fact, the report puts “using email,” “sending and receiving photos via email,” “researching products for purchase,” “purchasing products” and “watching internet video/streaming” above social networking use in terms of proliferation amongst the US adult population.

Still, 55.6 million social networking adults is nothing to sniff at.

And the beauty of this chart is that Ranker actually provides a platform for users to engage in pretty much every activity on  it, so there’s even something for the non-social-networkers (whoever they are).

Of course, some things (streaming audio, instant messaging) are currently gestating in the development womb. But, our system is flexible enough to provide for all of these possibilities. Which means that we can cover even those users who don’t make it into the 1/3 of the US population who regularly use social networking sites. And nothing makes lunchtime a lil’ bit sweeter quite like validation in the form of pretty charts and stats.

So, Mashable, I raise my PB&J in thanks to you for printing this story just in time for lunch. Just don’t expect me to share my cheez-its.

America The Porntiful

Remember in American Pie when Tara Reid talked about double clicking her mouse? Well, she wasn’t talking about surfing the web, but surfing for smut is about as American as..well, apple pie.

Granted, it’s not like other countries don’t care to indulge in a little technological titillation too. But, with its foundations built on the Puritanical tug-of-war between repression and rebellion, the good ol’ US of A seems perfectly suited for the pursuit of pleasure from the privacy of your personal computer.

So, without further ado, I give you one of the most interesting lists I’ve seen on Ranker so far — the United States broken down by the number of subscriptions to porn sites. I’m not sure whether this says more about the smut-loving tendencies of a particular state or about its population’s apparent inability to find free porn online, but either way, it’s a fascinating study in cyber-trends. Please to enjoy…

States with highest subscriptions to porn sites

Books That Changed My Life (Yes, books still exist)

So, I spend all day every day talking about technology. Binary is my business, product specs are my prose and my most creative writing often goes into error messages and tool-tips.

But, just because I’m a devotee of all things digital, doesn’t mean I’m not also a lover of the good, old-fashioned power of the printed word. In fact, I own so many books that my apartment is literally crammed with them — from the carpet to the kitchen cabinets.

So, in what I hope will be perceived as an amusingly ironic twist by all of my loyal blog readers who will soon be sick of hearing me talk about Ranker, I have decided to celebrate today’s launch of the site’s sharing functionalities with my list of — what else — the best books I’ve ever read. Please to enjoy…

Books That Changed My Life (Aka: You Should Read These)

Relive The Small Steps For Mankind With A Giant Leap For The Internet

July 20th isn’t just the day before my birthday. It’s also the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. And, this July 20th happens to be the fortieth anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s famous small steps.

Now, for those of us who were too young to experience that event in realtime the first time, there’s a new website that will recreate the whole thing virtually, using the best services that social media has to offer. There will be tweeting about the launch, widgets tracking it on Myspace and Facebook and even flash videos recreating it in real-time, all courtesy of the JFK Preisdential library and AOL (yes, they do still exist).

All in all, for an AstroCamp nerd like myself, it’s a world wide wet dream. Not to mention a fascinating experiment in terms of the power of storytelling via social media.

You can check the whole thing out at the We Chose The Moon website http://wechoosethemoon.org. And,  you can follow Houston Mission Control: http://twitter.com/ap11_capcom, the Eagle Lunar Module: http://twitter.com/ap11_eagle and the Apollo 11 Spacecraft:http://twitter.com/ap11_spacecraft on Twitter.

I’ll see you at the launch. 10-4, over and out.

Sex & The Tweety

As of 20 mins. from now, I will be exactly eleven days away from my 23rd birthday. That’s right, in case my love of all things 90′s didn’t tip you off, I’m a child of the Hammer-pant-wearing, Ghostwriter-watching, TLC-listening era when walkmens were king and Math Blasters was considered the height of computer gaming.

Which puts me smack dab in the middle of my roaring twenties right about…now. So, what does a 20-something girl raised on a steady diet of Sex & The City do on a typical Friday night in this day and age? Well, she tweets. And she eats Mexican food. And she watches reruns of “What Not To Wear.” Okay, so it’s not cosmos and clubbing, beer and bar-hopping or even Ghiradelli and girl talk. It doesn’t require any fancier footwear than the post-work pedicure I treated myself to today. And, it’s not exactly going to make for the most scintillating brunch dish with my girlfriends.

But, it works for me. Or at least, it works for me after this work week. Not that I don’t feel the slightest twinge of twenty-something guilt at not spending tonight making the kinds of memories that I would probably forget were it not for the facebook photos, but the guilt still isn’t a big enough motivating factor to get my ass off the couch, into heels and out on the dance floor.

So, for tonight, I’m staying in. I’m watching reruns. I’m eating Mexican food. I’m gazing mindlessly at my pretty purple toenail polish. In short, I’m vegging out. But, just because I’m vegging out, doesn’t mean I want to spend the night out of touch. I’m not one of those people who likes to hole up, turn off my cell phone and avoid human contact when I’m relaxing. I just want to feel connected to other people, without having to actually deal with them in person. Typing, texting, tweeting are all a more than welcome diversion from the hundredth Wal-Mart commercial I’ve seen on TLC tonight.

That’s why I love social media. It allows me to stay permanently plugged-in, meaning I can unwind without unplugging. Now, I know there are lots of people (yes, I’m talking to you mom) who would argue that you can’t really veg out while you’re plugged in. But, those people probably weren’t spending their teen years staying up late to sneak instant message sessions with their friends after their parents went to sleep.  Or going at it on the Gameboy during trips to Grandma’s.

As a matter of fact, my downtime has pretty much been characterized by the glow of a computer screen since I was about six — that’s when my dad brought home our first beige Mac, the site of many a Mavis Beacon lesson and Oregon Trail trek. Now that I’m playing Oregon Trail on my iPhone (the best $4.99 I’ve ever spent, by the way), not much has changed. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love to read, paint, make jewelery, swim, hike, and lots of other hobbies that would make me sound much less tech-addicted were I to recount them all Dating-Game-style. But, I have to admit, nary a night goes by that I don’t check some sort of screen multiple times, even when I’m out and about.

Some people might see that as cause for concern. Or at least as cause for some sort of special report about how technology is ruining us twenty-somethings. But, I prefer to see it through more #d6466e-tinted glasses. Rather than lament the fact that my Friday night ended up being less Sex & The City and more text and the tweety, I’d rather see it as a good thing. Thanks to the wonders of wireless internet, I was able to veg out on my couch and hang out with my friends. Not that avatars are a perfect substitute for actual humans, but when you just can’t get up the energy to get off the couch and get on the heels, they’re better than nothing.  This way, we all get to float lazily on the social stream, without having to get out of the water entirely just to take a little break. And really, isn’t being connected to the world from the comfort of your couch exactly what social networking is all about?

So not every 20-something night has to be all about decadent drinks and crowded clubs. Sometimes it’s okay to socialize in your shorts and slippers. After all, Sex & The City is on TV, and between my friends on Twitter and the beer in my fridge, I think I’ll be fine spending this Friday bar-hopping on my butt.

Facebook Sows The Seeds Of Sharing Its Walled Garden

The web is all atwitter today at the announcement of Facebook’s new privacy options, which many pundits are heralding as the first step towards the big blue giant being able to challenge the tiny tweeting bird in a battle for business model supremacy. So, what’s all the fuss about?

Well, in a non-jargon-laden nutshell, Facebook’s new privacy options will essentially allow users to open the content they create on Facebook up to the entire world wide web. That means that google could soon be indexing everything from your drunken college photos to your most serious status posts. Of course, the whole plan is opt-in, meaning that it won’t happen unless you as a user make the choice to let it happen. And, Facebook is promising that it will wait for a probationary period before opening up the newly opened content to search engines. But, either way, it’s a big step forward from the walled garden of facebook past to the public (and potentially more monetizable) stream of facebook’s future — to mix a couple of nature metaphors.

Now, why would bloggers who traditionally err on the side of shared, social standards like the whole open web movement be against Facebook’s first major attempt to open up its user generated content? Well, first of all, many of them seem to feel like this is just a cheap, transparent ploy to jump on the Twitter train. Or twain if you will. But, more importantly, many of them make the point that a lot of people who use Facebook aren’t necessarily web or world savvy enough to truly understand the implications of allowing everyone and their mother (and your mother) to see those embarrassing Facebook photos when they google your name. For a lot of the kids who use Facebook, the perpetuity of public content on the web is a concept as foreign as their own mortality, or the fact that the Miley Cyrus might not be the most talented person on the planet.

At Ranker, we’re constantly dealing with the issue of public vs. private, so I have some sympathy for the Facebook team’s tough position at this point. It’s hard enough to figure out how to intelligently straddle the line between encouraging your users to share their content and helping them to keep the stuff they don’t want shared private, let alone trying to do so somewhat retroactively. That’s why we’ve already architected a system that goes beyond a simple ‘publish’ and ‘don’t publish’ binary to allow users to make the choice between posting their lists, keeping their lists private, saving their lists as drafts or just sharing them directly with certain, specific people. Of course, all you can see on the site right now is the choice between ‘publish’ and ‘don’t publish,’ but we’ve got our plans for the rest of it in the works, if not in development.

I think what it comes down to with all this Facebook controversy is the fact that Facebook not only promised its users that it would be a walled garden, but it used that whole walled garden concept to differentiate it from the surfeit of other social networks that cropped up before and after it. The walled garden approach was one of the big reasons behind the exodus of users from Myspace to Facebook in the first place. Now that Facebook is looking to open up the garden doors, it’s going to have a much more difficult time convincing people that the garden should be open to the public.

All in all, it should be interesting to see what the seeds Facebook planted today will end up yielding, and either way, I’m still planning to plant my content in the Facebook field. But, I’m also going to have send my 12 year old brother a wall post warning him that if he doesn’t want his pending puberty posted on google for all to see, he better not opt into the new Facebook privacy options.