Our red/blue Facebook pill moment has arrived

There has been a shitload of discussion happening around the web when it comes to the Facebook announcement at their f8 developer conference. You know, the one where they have decided that you don’t need the rest of that silly web anymore because they are going to make your electronic womb all nice and cozy with a never ending steam of mental pablum from your vast world of friends.

As Ethan Kaplan said in a post – identity has now been externalized and it will reside on Facebook (that is also where I got the title for this post); and he is right, we are being convinced that in order to have any value we need to be connected to a world created by Facebook (and yes, the same can be said for Google+). It is only by letting them present our identity and life events to the world that they exist.

It is like that modern Internet saying – “pics or it didn’t happen” but in a Facebook world that gets transformed to – “if it isn’t posted, liked, commented on the it didn’t happen“. Over 700 million people; and growing, have been conned in to subjugating any sense of real life experiences of their own into living vicariously through the postings of a large percentage of people that they will never meet.

Toyota has recently come out with a series of ads that poke fun at this phenomena but rather than being in jest it does speak to a certain degree of truth.

There’s a popular term on the web that has been gaining speed as the old news media struggles to find ways to survive as the glut of information continues to steamroll forward – over them, around them. It’s called aggregation by some and curation by others but the gist is the same – becoming an authority by attempting to pick the best gems out of the information chaff.

This is part of what Facebook is doing – attempting to become the curator, aggregator, of our daily lives. They want us living within it pages. They want us to become so intertwined with their curation that they become the defacto holder of  the “story of your life”.

As Frederic Lardinois from Silicon Filter writes in a rant against this idea:

 What really matters is that Facebook now sees its missions are giving you the ability to “curate the story of your life.” Thanks to the new lightweight sharing features announced today, you can now quickly share (and bore your friends with) every article and book you read, every movie you watch on Neflix, every TV show you watch on Hulu, every book you read on your Kindle, every song you play on MOG or Spotify, and every picture of food you take on Foodspotting. Doesn’t that sound like a dream come true? Isn’t that “the story of your life?”

While Frederic says he can understand the reasoning behind what Facebook has done he also wonders if this time Facebook has stepped too far. Even Peter Yared in a post on VentureBeat wonders if Facebook has featured itself into a usage u-turn.

I hate to break it to Frederic and Peter but the chances that there will be any mass move away from Facebook because of these changes is next to nil, zip, nada. Sure some people who are concerned about privacy might jump the Facebook ship; even though it is really hard to do according to Nik Cubrilovic, but the fact is those people amount to a very small minority on Facebook.

I have lost count of the number of times I have heard someone standing next to them in a line at the corner store or outside a grocery store that they’ll catch them later on Facebook. It has become a starting point for kids in their days and hang-outs for adults instead of getting together with those self-same people for a beer or a game of cards. Now we get virtual games of Farmville or some word game, all the while we are feeding the monstrosity that Facebook has become.

Just as people have been sucked into this information gathering machine so have businesses, and not just to the point of setting up so-called fan pages but if this post by Robert Scoble is any indication they are also doing it so that Facebook can host all their data.

First, a look at Color. Yes, this is the app that was Silicon Valley’s biggest startup “failure” in quite a while. But here it’s back and back in a HUGE way. I really am having fun with this app, which is totally integrated into Facebook and does a lot more than the old version (live video, for instance). Really amazing. Sign up for the beta at http://www.color.com/

Note how they are using Facebook’s platform to hold ALL data. This is a new move for Silicon Valley startups.

(emphasis mine)

No longer are startups looking to have long term control over their own data but are willingly handing it over to Facebook to care take.

Every second of the day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year Facebook is collecting data; and at the new forefront of this new data collection is this new passive sharing news ticker that displays everything, every, thing, that people you have friended are doing, not have done, but are doing. Just as their passive sharing news ticker will display everything you are doing.

From ReadWriteWeb:

These so-called “social apps” haven’t been widely launched yet, but you can get a sense of what they will do by adding a couple of brand new newspaper social apps to your Facebook profile: The Guardian’s app and one from Washington Post.

Be forewarned though, with these apps you’re automatically sending anything you read into your Facebook news feed. No “read” button. No clicking a “like” or “recommend” button. As soon as you click through to an article you are deemed to have “read” it and all of your Facebook friends and subscribers will hear about it. That could potentially cause you embarrassment and it will certainly add greatly to the noise of your Facebook experience.

Or as Dave Winer put it:

What clued me in was an article on ReadWriteWeb that says that just reading an article on their site may create an announcement on Facebook. Something like: “Bull Mancuso just read a tutorial explaining how to kill a member of another crime family.” Bull didn’t comment. He didn’t press a Like button. He just visited a web page. And an announcement was made on his behalf to everyone who follows him on Facebook. Not just his friends, because now they have subscribers, who can be total strangers.

So what is all this constant data collection for? What are you handing over your daily lives for?

The simple answer: to provide fodder for companies to be able to perform incredible product demographics. To be able to better tailor marketing campaigns. To be able to convince like never before that you can’t do without their products and make you feel like you are best friends with that company.

I joked once that the government never needed to worry about needing to create another huge Echelon project all they had to do is get a backdoor into Facebook and Twitter and that would provide them with all the intelligence they would ever need. With this new Facebook something like this has never been truer even though there are some that would scoff at the idea it makes perfect sense.

But really this is all moot because no matter what Facebook does going forward it will continue to grow and we will continue to keep feeding the beast and they know it. Until something totally new comes forward to replace this over-hyped social media world we are all being told is so important Facebook will continue to attract new users and old users will keep sucking up any changes Facebook makes regardless of whether they are detrimental to us or not.

But as Scott Fulton writes at ReadWriteWeb – Facebook is always on guard for that.

Facebook’s perceived value to businesses has nothing really to do with its being a social network. Thus, any competitor seeking to dethrone Facebook — whether from Google or elsewhere on the Web or from another planet — does not need to be a better social network. It just needs a better value proposition, which may be why Facebook revolutionizes itself every six months or so. It’s not just to shake out the cobwebs and incite revolution, but to pre-empt evolution from rendering permanent Facebook’s social status as the next AOL.

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  1. 26/09/11 at 12:19

    One other thing to remember when looking for the next Facebook or Google – many people are looking in the wrong place. Scott Fulton is right in noting that the next hot thing doesn’t have to be a better social network. And with reason – the next big thing will be the service that delivers more value to the customer than Facebook and Google currently deliver to their customers. And, for those who don’t realize it yet, WE are NOT Facebook’s and Google’s customers – the advertisers are Facebook’s and Google’s customers. We’re just the data.