Social network service



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Technical details

Facebook Markup Language


Facebook Markup Language ("FBML") is a variant evolved subset of HTML with some elements removed. It allows Facebook application writers to customise the "look and feel" of their applications, to a limited extent. It is the specification of how to encode your content so that Facebook's servers can read and publish it, which you will need to use in your Facebook-specific feed so that Facebook's system can properly parse your content and publish it as specified. You set the FBML for a profile box by calling profile.setFBML through the API. The FBML is cached on Facebook's server until profile.setFBML is called again through a canvas page. The official FBML documentation is now hosted on the Facebook Developers Wiki.
The FBML will expand to something like this:









The fb_sig value is generated using all of the other fb_sig_ parameters (but without the "fb_sig_" prefix included in their names) identically to how it is generated in the API authentication scheme. The fb_sig_user and fb_sig_session_key parameters will only be included if the user has a valid session with the application.

The diagram on the right, expressed using the UML standard notation for class diagrams, represents a subset of the information managed by Facebook. It gives a concise picture of the various entities, relations and fields stored in the database.

For instance, the diagram shows what fields are associated with the notion of Job, School, CreditCard, ScreenName, and so on (see the corresponding yellow boxes representing classes).

Note that this is a conceptual class diagram: it describes the concepts rather than the implementation and the detail of the database. For more information about technical models, see FQL - Facebook Query Language (SQL-like query language).

Infrastructure


For running its operations Facebook uses the software bundle known as LAMP.

Sale rumors


In 2006, with the sale of social networking site MySpace to NewsCorp, rumors surfaced about the possible sale of Facebook to a larger media company. Zuckerberg, the owner of Facebook, had already said that he did not want to sell the company and denied rumors to the contrary. He had already rejected outright offers in the range of $975 million, and it was not clear who might be willing to pay a higher premium for the site. Steve Rosenbush, a technology business analyst, suspected Viacom might.

In September 2006, serious talks between Facebook and Yahoo! took place for the acquisition of the social network, with prices reaching as high as $1 billion. In October 2007, after Google purchased video-sharing site YouTube, rumors circulated that Google had offered $2.3 billion to outbid Yahoo!. Peter Thiel, a board member of Facebook, indicated that Facebook's internal valuation is around $8 billion based on their projected revenues of $1 billion by 2015, comparable to that of Viacom's MTV brand and based on shared target demographic audience.

In September 2007, Microsoft approached Facebook, proposing an investment in return for a 5% stake in the company. Microsoft would pay an estimated 300 to 500 million dollars for the share. Other companies such as Google had also expressed interest in buying a portion of Facebook. On October 24, 2007, Microsoft announced that it had bought a 1.6% share of Facebook for $246 million.

Use in investigations


The information students provide on Facebook has been used in investigations by colleges, universities, and local police. Facebook's Terms of Use specify that "the website is available for your personal, noncommercial use only", misleading some to believe that college administrators and police may not use the site for conducting investigations. Furthermore, some employers look at Facebook profiles of prospective employees or interns. Information posted on Facebook is potentially accessible to employers with faculty or alumni accounts.

Blocking of Facebook in Syria


In November of 2007, Facebook was blocked by the Syrian government on the premise that it promoted attacks on the authorities. No comment was made from the government that blocked it, which has started a crackdown on online political activism in that period.

Responses

Schools blocking access


The University of New Mexico (UNM) in October 2005 blocked access to Facebook from UNM campus computers and networks, citing unsolicited e-mails and a similar site called UNM Facebook. After a UNM user signed into Facebook from off campus, a message from Facebook said, "We are working with the UNM administration to lift the block and have explained that it was instituted based on erroneous information, but they have not yet committed to restore your access." UNM, in a message to students who tried to access the site from the UNM network, wrote, "This site is temporarily unavailable while UNM and the site owners work out procedural issues. The site is in violation of UNM's Acceptable Computer Use Policy for abusing computing resources (e.g., spamming, trademark infringement, etc.). The site forces use of UNM credentials (e.g., NetID or email address) for non-UNM business." However, after Facebook created an encrypted login and displayed a precautionary message not to use university passwords for access, UNM unblocked access the following spring semester.

The Columbus Dispatch reported on June 22, 2006, that Kent State University's athletic director had planned to ban the use of Facebook by athletes and gave them until August 1 to delete their accounts.On July 5, 2006, the Daily Kent Stater reported that the director reversed the decision after reviewing the privacy settings of Facebook.

Most school boards in North America that run elementary schools to high schools have the access to Facebook blocked.

Organizations blocking Facebook


Ontario government employees, MPPs, and cabinet ministers were blocked from access to Facebook on government computers in May 2007. When the employees tried to access Facebook, a warning message "The Internet website that you have requested has been deemed unacceptable for use for government business purposes". This warning also appears when employees try to access YouTube, gambling or pornographic websites. However, innovative employees have found ways around such protocols, and many claim to use the site for political or work-related purposes.

The New South Wales Department of Education and Training has also blocked all users (students and staff) from accessing Facebook, as have many other government departments in Australia.


Facebook memorials


A notable ancillary effect of social networking websites, particularly Facebook, is the ability for participants to mourn publicly for a deceased individual. On Facebook, students often leave messages of sadness, grief, or hope on the individual's page, transforming it into a sort of public book of condolences. This particular phenomenon has been documented at a number of schools. Previously, Facebook had stated that its official policy on the matter was to remove the profile of the deceased one month after he or she has died, preventing the profile from being used for communal mourning, citing privacy concerns. Due to user response, Facebook amended its policy. Its new policy is to place deceased members' profiles in a "memorialization state".

Additional usage of Facebook as a tool of remembrance is expressed in group memberships on the site. Now that groups are community-wide and available among all networks, many users create Facebook groups to remember not only a deceased friend or individual, but also as a source of support in response to an occurrence such as September 11, 2001 attacks or the Virginia Tech massacre in April 2007.


Customization and security


Facebook is often compared to MySpace but one significant difference between the two sites is the level of customization. MySpace allows users to decorate their profiles using HTML and CSS while Facebook only allows plain text. However, a number of users have tweaked their profiles by using "hacks." On February 24, 2006, a pair of users exploited a cross-site scripting (XSS) hole on the profile page and created a fast-spreading worm, loading a custom CSS file on infected profiles that made them look like MySpace profiles. Notably, both users are now employed by Facebook.[citation needed] On April 19, 2006, a user was able to embed an iframe into his profile and load a custom off-site page featuring a streaming video and a flash game from Drawball. He has since been banned from Facebook. On March 26, 2006, a user was able to embed JavaScript in the "Hometown" field of his profile which imported his custom CSS. In each case, Facebook quickly patched the holes, typically within hours of their discovery. In July 2007, Adrienne Felt, an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia, discovered a cross-site scripting (XSS) hole in the Facebook Platform that could inject JavaScript into profiles, which was used to import custom CSS and demonstrate how the platform could be used to violate privacy rules or create a worm. This hole took Facebook two and a half weeks to fix.
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