Facebook in the Mail

It has very much been in the news that Facebook has seen explosive growth, particularly in the short period since they opened up their platform. When Facebook first came out, I was intrigued enough to try to join; however, I was not then associated with a “member” university, its initial market domain. It was only in the last month, with the publicity generated by Facebook’s strategic shift, that I found the occasion to resubmit registration. (This time, too late for it to be necessary, I am associated with a significant campus community – UC Berkeley). I find myself using Facebook quite a bit, and communication with those in my Friends network is nearly as likely to be initiated within the bounds of the application as via public email.

I know many folks younger than myself who have immersed themselves in the Facebook experience, ranging from a niece shortly to be in the class of Middlebury ’11, to our soon to be ex-babycenter, Stanford ’11, who has admitted to poke wars with her friends in the very wee hours of the morning.

Despite these anecdotes, I haven’t had a real grasp of how significant Facebook really is in terms of traffic, attention, etc. But now, courtesy of friends in the central networking group at UC Berkeley, I can share an image demonstrating the source and destination domains of all the email coming into CalMail during the month of May 2007. (CalMail is Berkeley’s primary email application; as with any large research university, there are many other mail hosts on the berkeley.edu network). The image is pretty amazing.

UCB mail volume May 2007

In the graph, email hosts are denoted by their domain registrar affiliations; Google’s GMail email is collapsed into “google.com.” Facebook is “tfbnw.net,” the domain through which their email flows.

This graph shows that six percent of the mail coming into UC Berkeley’s CalMail in May 2007 — across all students, staff, and faculty — is from Facebook. For a single source — a single application — that is a staggering percentage. It well demonstrates the popularity and dominance that Facebook has in the social life of a whole cohort, at least for the present moment.