Monday, May 10, 2010

Facebook Is Not Your Friend

With a slew of articles last week deriding Facebook security lapses that allowed your friends to view your real-time chats, a privacy policy which increasingly shifts the balance of power away from users, and stories like this about CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Gizmodo and Wired have joined the growing drumbeat of people calling for users to disable their Facebook accounts and pioneer a new open-source alternative. They both make great points, but I'll be one of the first to tell you that Facebook jumped the shark long before the most recent accusations were brought to light. What catalyzed the death spiral of a brilliant idea was, say it with me, APPS.

Applications, while starting innocently, opened the data floodgates that is now impossible to close. It's as though Facebook realized, "You know, 95% of people go on Facebook because they are bored. If we can somehow get them to spend more than 45 seconds on the site, we can make a killing." From this realization, applications were born. What was once a quaint central location to share photographs and updates with friends, was now an advertising behemoth, using your very profile against you to "tailor" the experience to you, which is a fluffy way of saying, "sell you crap". The entire experience became littered with Horoscopes and Farmville accolades and other assorted buffoonery. Not long after, parents started to show up. Coincidence? I think not. And now, people are up in arms when it turns out that Facebook is a business, and that every single thing you do or "like" is funneled into a database in some underground advertising bunker, where executives are desperately trying to determine the next Dorito flavor. Applications laid the groundwork for the erosion of privacy, but forgive me for not having a lot of sympathy for people who sincerely want to know "WHAT FAIRY TALE DO I BELONG IN?". The anti-Facebook in this regard is Google Buzz.

Buzz does what Facebook should do (and once did), but in a slimmer, cleaner form. You can share and comment on interesting articles. You can post photographs and share thoughts. It is completely by and for those who use it, and is exceedingly easy to engage in or remove (just try to figure out how to delete your Facebook account). It fosters intelligent discourse and is seamlessly integrated with other Google features. Most importantly, Buzz is run by a company with the chops to have a static privacy policy and a team of engineers committed to improving the experience and making sure that what is private will remain that way. I'm sure I am preaching to the choir here (except you SS), but Buzz is not the dark horse underdog people have been dismissing it as. It may be niche product for information addicts for now, but the day will come when the SS Zuckerberg will start taking on water and people will run into the ever-loving arms of Google Buzz.

1 comment:

  1. You are totally wrong about me and Facebook. I really don't like the direction the site has been heading and is heading. While I'm not sure Buzz is going to protect my privacy any better, at least I KNOW that Fb isn't.

    I've been looking for alternatives for some time but haven't found anything with the same net effect as Fb. The only thing I would really have a problem giving up on Facebook is the photo-sharing ability. I like publishing my Friday graphs (except for last Friday) and I like the photo-sharing feature of Fb where I can see and comment on my own and friends' photos. If there was a site where I could do this I would think about switching to that site. Any ideas?

    The other rule is that it can't just be on the web. If that was okay I would just publish my graphs and pictures to my blog, but it's not. I need a site where I can allow certain friends to see pictures I post, and then have the ability to comment on them. Again, any ideas?

    I'm THISCLOSE to shutting down my Facebook account.