Facebook doesn’t suck

Facebook is/not a walled garden – Fang and me hosted group on Facebook. Here we go again: Why Facebook sucks Saturday, October 13, 2007 by Dave Winer. Another topic Scoble and I talked about today was Facebook. I said I don’t like Facebook, never have, and I finally figured out why. It’s another one of…

Facebook is/not a walled garden – Fang and me hosted group on Facebook.

Here we go again:

Why Facebook sucks

Saturday, October 13, 2007 by Dave Winer.

A picture named hebrewHunk.jpgAnother topic Scoble and I talked about today was Facebook. I said I don’t like Facebook, never have, and I finally figured out why. Permalink to this paragraph

It’s another one of those user generated content things, only this time I’m building up an address book that I can look at, but can only do things with it that Facebook lets me do. Permalink to this paragraph

Why exactly do I need Facebook to get inbetween me and my address book? Permalink to this paragraph

I mean, I understand why they want me to tell them everyone I know, but how about letting me download a copy to my computer, so I can back it up, use it on my iPhone or Blackberry, bequeath it to my heirs, write a book about it, or give a copy to Google or Netflix or Yahoo, or you get the idea. Permalink to this paragraph

It’s the last thing they don’t want me to do, give a copy to a competitor of theirs. And they hope I won’t notice that I’m doing all this work and not insisting on at least being their equal when it comes to my data. Permalink to this paragraph

A picture named youngMenWithBuckets.gifSometime in November Google is rumored to be revealing their answer to Facebook. Whatever it is it will surely have an API, and will allow Google apps to share the info, and it will, if it hopes to compete with Facebook, provide some access to this data to app developers. But the true measure of their gravitas will be whether they give full control of the user’s data to the user. If they do that, no matter what’s missing from their software, it won’t suck. Permalink to this paragraph

(Dave Winer)

And Robert Scoble follows:

Can’t say I disagree.

I think it sucks because it isn’t scalable and falls apart at 5,000 contacts. It pisses me off more and more every day because of that scaling wall.

Damn I wish I hadn’t locked my rolodex in this trunk.

Yep. That’s it from Scoble – inane no?

So point number one: when we examine roles within a community, there is a point in the lifecycle where the member goes from being a Leader to an Elder. A leader offers information, training, support, knowledge transfer. They are pioneers, gung ho and dynamic/passionate. As the Leader tires of the community, they become like the old boys sitting on the stoop, reminiscing about the good ol’ days. They use their (not inconsiderable) longevity and standing in the community to attempt to manipulate half heartedly (Scoble) or grumpily (Winer) the hosts. I’ve seen it before, riling up of the great unwashed to change anything and everything from getting moderator staff sacked to changing the colours of the logo. Zuckerberg won’t be moved easily and he is not influenced by the likes of the Bloggerati – he successfully ignored 1/3 of his community and kept the now-much-loved newsfeed in Facebook.

Anyway, Winer and Scoble resurrect this argument every few months because it keeps the linkbait high. Here’s the response from Dan Fernandez (Lead Product Manager – Non-Professional Tools, Visual Studio Express and Popfly) from Microsoft last time (not all Facebook data is a walled garden) about how easy it is to extract out the address book (August post):

What about non-developers?

How would Scoble get data out of Facebook though since he’s not a developer? Well, for one, any company or even a Facebook competitor could do this, but beyond that, you can use Popfly to, without a single line of code, pull your list of friends from Facebook. This isn’t new, in fact Dan’l Lewin, Microsoft corporate Vice President discussed this exact scenario on stage with Mark Zuckerberg at the Facebook platform launch.
Still don’t believe non-developers can do this? Then I suggest you watch my recently published shaky-cam video with Soma, the Vice President of Developer Division and his 14-year old daughter, Sahanna, showing how she can build applications using Facebook data with zero code.

If I can find rebuttals this easily – and I’m not a developer – so can they. So why resurrect the “walled garden” debate every few weeks? Flame wars keep traffic high. As much as I love the Bloggerati, all they do is blog. Might help if they actually created something other than hot air occasionally, no? Present company excepted, of course. 🙂

Point Number Two: Do you really want anyone downloading your details as part of their address book? Could a Scoble or other Facebook Whale use it for nefarious purposes?:

However, the possibility of data mining by private individuals unaffiliated with Facebook remains open, as evidenced by the fact that two MIT students were able to download, using an automated script, over 70,000 Facebook profiles from four schools (MIT, NYU, the University of Oklahoma, and Harvard) as part of a research project on Facebook privacy published on December 14, 2005

If I was to summarise Number Two I’d say: what goes on Facebook stays on Facebook. Yes I know we want the option and ease of use of moving crap around but that doesn’t mean we should have it. Facebook is not just a contact list with names, telephone number and email address. In fact, if you add me to your Facebook friends list, do you really want me to start sending you invitations to CyWorld, RSVP, MySpace, NeoPets, Club Penguin, IYoMu, Australian Idol, eBay, and 10 million other sites out there that I mosey around on? Oh. You do???? Ok, some invites coming your way. But for some people, it will be disconcerting to find out that simply because they added Scoble to their friends list, that some day in the future their ‘stuff’ may end up on a public site. And no, just because you are part of a swarm of 5000+ doesn’t mean you want everything truly public. In fact, even if you are part of the 250,000 Australia network on FB, doesn’t mean you want your stuff on the front page of the Aussie tabloids.

Oh and Dave (last paragraph)? I can tell you right now that Google is not in the business of handing control over to the user. Remember map mashups were strictly against their policy and they tried to block it until they realised they couldn’t win. Leopards don’t change their spots when it’s an ingrained part of the corporate culture.

Yes I want Web 3.0 too but it’s because I also want granularity of control. Person A can see everything all the time but Person B can only see it, here, on this site, cannot be RSS’d. Cannot be re-posted elsewhere. Cannot be dumped into another site or online community that I have no clue about. I want a copyright appended to every bit of my life AND the technology to support that privacy. In the meantime, keep Facebook a gated community. Please.

And tell that CEO of Sun to rack off. No-one – not even the teens – give up totally on privacy. Hellooooo? Remember closed bedroom doors with “Keep Out” signs – ring a bell? Thought so.

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