Well, the recent ruckus about their terms of service tickled my interest sufficiently that I finally gave in. There really is no such thing as bad publicity for facebook.
Now, what's interesting about it for this latecomer? Beside not finding much actually useful or new on facebook (well, perhaps except for new lows in advertising), two points really struck me: An incredibly simple user interface, literally going out of the way when it should, making it as easy as at all possible to let me do what I'd most likely want to do -- and all that, of course, within the walled garden's fences. As an exhibit, consider the exchange between Ann Bassetti and myself up there: With Twitter, I'd have linked to it. In Facebook, it seems like I can't do that, so your only chance is going into the walled garden and trying to search for it. Second, a subtle persuasion that I'm safe and secure there. For the first couple of "friends", I'm bothered with a CAPTCHA (which goes away eventually), to "make sure I'm legit"; when I "friend" somebody who isn't in the "same network" as I am, I'm politely told that (and why!) I can't see their profile. Nothing like letting your users softly run into limits if you want to convince them that they're protected by these limits, and that you're their friend, by enforcing these limits. Remember: Facebook is your friend, it is not scary, and it helps you keep your privacy. There is nothing that Facebook would ever do wrong with your data. It helps you keep your privacy.
It's almost fortunate, then, that Facebook also inflicted one of its little indiscretions on me...
I hadn't quite told the world that I had given in to that particular temptation, yet, despite some misgivings on principles. Well, this takes care of that.
So, what's the conclusion? So far, Facebook indeed very much looks like Hotel California, with nice rooms, and a somewhat chatty concierge. Nothing to see here as far as I'm concerned, except for network effects in action, and some really neat persuasion packed into UI.
(Good that I can use Twitter to update my status.)