As a marginally successful Google-bombing campaign winds down, so does the feud between Columbia's CUCommunity and the Harvard-created, Columbia-inclusive thefacebook.com, say the instigators.
Google-bombing, a trend among the computer-savvy, allows united groups of Internet users to manipulate Google's search technology, linking search terms to unexpected results. For example, a Google search using the terms "miserable failure" now yields President George Bush's biography on the Administration's official Web site. Rob Spinella, SEAS '06, had the idea of turning the technique against Harvard's thefacebook.com, in retaliation for what he and other CUCommunity users saw as an attempted usurpation of the Columbia site's users.
Harvard sophomore Mark Zuckerberg opened thefacebook.com to Harvard students in early February and expanded it to Columbia on Feb. 26. Since then, thefacebook.com has signed up close to 1,000 members from the Columbia community, according to Chris Hughes, a Harvard sophomore and public relations manager for thefacebook.com. "Some schools have jumped onto the network in mind-blowing numbers," Hughes said.
Others, like Columbia, have not. "The numbers are still climbing; it's still growing as a community," Hughes added. Some CUCommunity members, however, thought that Columbia already had a community.
Thefacebook.com added Columbia without the consultation of Columbia student councils or CUCommunity creator Adam Goldberg, SEAS '06. Spinella, however, said he wasn't entirely serious when he suggested the Google attack. "I should have held my tongue. I didn't think people were going to take it seriously," Spinella said. But some did. Spinella's friend Cody Hess, CC '06, "blogged the idea" of Google-bombing on his CUCommunity page on March 5, and the nearly 50 responses were overwhelmingly positive. The mission: Google-bomb everything in support of thefacebook.com, which Hess saw as thefacebook itself, Harvard University, and the Columbia Daily Spectator. "We were upset that thefacebook was getting more press," Hess said.
The proposed Google-bombs were: "worthless safety school" to produce Harvard.edu, "thefacebook" to link to CUCommunity, "cucommunity ripoff" to produce thefacebook.com.
"Worthless rag newspaper," the search term designed to yield the Columbia Daily Spectator Web site, were printed by the Harvard Crimson in a recent article, and as a result the search terms now yield the Harvard Crimson Web site.
Hess called the results a "miserable failure" and Hughes echoed that they were "futile." The links necessary were not posted off enough domains to influence Google, Hess said. "We don't have a
unified front," he added. "We're not sure what we're mad at or why we're mad."
Spinella agreed that the Google-bombing campaign was unsuccessful, but pointed out that "Google must have got its pants in a bunch about the whole thing," because Cody Hess's personal
page, once the first link to the search "Cody Hess," was "Google-murdered" and is now nowhere to be found.
The Crimson article said membership was growing dramatically faster for thefacebook.com, a fact that CUCommunity members say they want explained. CUCommunity allows visitors to surf its pages, but thefacebook.com makes people register on page one before anything can be seen. "I only signed up so I could post links for the Google-bombing," Hess said. Since then, he has petitioned to unsubscribe, but has not received an answer from thefacebook.com.
Of thefacebook's nearly 1,000 Columbia members, Hughes said about half log in over an average 48-hour span. Goldberg said CUCommunity, which numbers about 2,050 members, receives 3,200 unique hits every day.
Ultimately, all involved parties agree, there is no point in competition. "It's silly to compare them. There's no similarities at all," Hess said.
Hughes, also a content consultant for thefacebook.com said, "Their intentions do overlap, but they're not parallel."
"It's a facebook; it's not a community," Spinella said. "People just took it and blew it out of proportion. We could find betterthings to do."