Using heuristics to look for behavior patterns is a good idea. Implementing dumb heuristics just ticks off your users.
Case in point: Facebook. I rarely have need to use it much, but recently I had the opportunity to make a couple groups, and sent some invites to folks to join the groups. Well, Facebook decides to tell me that I’m using it to spam people and they’ll deactivate my account if I continue. Fine, I sent an e-mail to the folks instead (aside: an ad-driven site telling its users to stop generating more page loads?!?!) which was actually much easier.
Then I went looking for a couple folks I’d lost touch with and sent them friend requests – and it still told me I was using the site for spam. All I can figure is that friend requests must internally generate messages and it tripped on the same shortbus algorithm.
Googling for this leads to kinds of people complaining about the same thing – some even are banned for life for sending ‘too many’ friend requests. Facebook CSR’s apparently have authority to do so. No wonder Microsoft bought these guys.
I also setup an Orkut account. That I just had to go look up how to spell Orkut is one of the many things that’s keeping Google from squishing Facebook.
True. Facebook had a problem, where it went from closed network to open, which in turn brought the unwanted element of SPAM. They did a poor job dealing with it, based on your account and the others you’ve seen. That said, I must confess I haven’t seen any SPAM on my account. Whether or not the two are related is the big question.
Regarding your comment on Google’s Orkut…
Google never really worked on promoting Orkut, and it was never really a Google application. It was a friend-invites-friend kind of site and while this worked for Google itself, Orkut has no “wow” factor to it (neither does Facebook) and it grew (rapidly) only in the booming South American Internet community, which was in need of a social networking site. Despite the Google connection, it still doesn’t use Ajax, where Facebook has pretty much converted completely (and it looks great now, minus the overabundance of stupid plugins). I’ve been hoping that Google comes out with a new site, or at least a new version, but my understanding of their motives suggests this isn’t a high priority. Google isn’t about making cool websites and gaining users- it’s already got that. Google wants to collect information and make it available. My favorite band and ice-cream flavor is information, but it’s not worth sharing with the world.
Facebook went after college students, promoting on-campus and heavily using the easily-used college media. This, and due to the nature of Americans going away to college, and the establishment of large new friendship networks, adoption was like wildfire, spreading to most large universities within a year, and most everywhere else during the following year.
MySpace lost out on this because though it had plenty of recognition, it required much more work. On Facebook, users only need to enter details and find their friends. MySpace requires a lot of work, or you end up with my crappy-looking page. This is great for younger kids who want to express themselves, but not for the older crowd, who would have to suffer the dysfunctional-looking pages.
The main reason I can’t stand Orkut is the huge amount of SPAM Orkut accounts get- all of it in Spanish/Portugese. That’s the reason I stopped using it, that and the very small population of my peers using it.