Jan 22, 2012

How the "Facebook knows you cell name" works

Much of technology is the modern-day equivalent to a vaudeville magic act in so many cases.  It uses lights, a flashy gimmick, and the audience (that's you and me) sits there stunned, shocked and amazed at what is actually something pretty simple.

Today, I bring you the wonders of the latest Facebook "feature:" Facebook Knows Your Cell Phone's Name.

Here is the premise: By entering the last three digits of your cell phone into a carefully, and purposefully, crafted formula, Facebook will return the "name" of your cell phone.  If you haven't seen it, here are the steps:
  1. 1st step: from your mobile number number, take the last 3 numbers. Example- 780-496-9684 , take "684"only
  2. 2nd step: Write this @*[684:0] in the comment box below, replacing the 3 numbers with your own. 
  3. 3rd step: remove the * sign and press enter in the comment box.
Now, go ahead and try it. Open a new browser tab, window, whatever. I'll wait for you...

Scary, right?  Not really.  The formula simply provides a shortcut to a Facebook ID, returns the user's real name, and provides it to you.  The ":0" at the end removes the hyperlink to the user's account/page.

So, if you do NOT add the :0 in there, you will actually get a link (or should, anyway) to the page that matches your three digits.

It also works for many, but not all, 4-digit numbers, 5-digits, etc.  Why?  It ties back to a Facebook ID, remember?  We *all* have Facebook IDs.  That's how FB keeps track of its users.  

Now, the next part took a bit of thinking, and I am not 100% sure it's right, but I'd be willing to bet it is: Where did your "cell phone" go to school?  I bet Harvard.  Or, Harvard is in your "cell phone's" network, anyway.  Well, so long as you only use the last three digits.  How do I know this amazing information?  Is it magic!?  Some kind of weird sorcery? No.

Take the digits you used to find your cell phone's "name," and add it to this:

  1. Open a  new tab, window, whatever in your web browser
  2. Copy the following URL into your newly opened web browser tab, window, whatever: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=XXX, 
  3. Replace the XXX with your numbers. Ex: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=123
  4. Press enter
Did you get someone's page?  Did they have Harvard listed in their networks? Probably. Why? How?

Stop and think a moment. Where was FB developed?? Harvard. So, who would have low-number IDs? Harvard students. Anyone *not* in the Harvard network either removed Harvard at some point (early FB required a school network, remember?) or was an outside invite in the very early days, though that is highly unlikely - it was specifically for Harvard students to rate each other, remember?  TheFacebook was a knock off of "Hot or Not."

Oh, and if you try the last 4, 5, or all 10 digits and come up empty?  Most likely, that user has either completely deleted themselves from Facebook or that number just hasn't been used yet.

Ah, yes, I know - I just pulled the curtain back on the ol' wizard.  

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