Facebook’s Long Term Fate

When Facebook started making the rounds and opened themselves up to the public, I was unable to jump on the boat due to some technical issues with cookies. At the time, I was researching all the main social networks in attempting to build my own. With the failure, I pretty much ignored Facebook for a while until a friend of mine mentioned how good it was. That was then and the current product has come a long way…in the wrong direction.

The few things I enjoyed about Facebook compared to other social networks was the simplicity of interaction using the Wall’s Ajax style posting capabilities. The other social networks were pretty sloppy in coming up with something similar. Myspace was just a  spammy mess that demonstrated why people who lack HTML and design skills should stay away from the web. Friendster screwed up and spent too long recovering in moving away from the Java/Tomcat stack to PHP. Hi5 just had nothing. Mixi was isolated in Japan while orkut died out due to not innovating and Google concentrating on a regional social network. Only Linkedin managed to survive in that group, although Twitter started to grow but only at a later stage.

The main thing Facebook figured out that most of these social networks lacked was seeing themselves as a platform. They had several important features in creating one of the first social operating systems and Facebook Connect would solve one of the most difficult issues facing the net in dealing with Single Sign On. But probably more than anything the proliferation of games using Facebook and the idea of the multi-level marketing aspect inherent in these social games using their social currency made Facebook a clear winner that outdistanced the other social networks.

Unfortunately, the massive spam that started to proliferate peoples’ walls with constant invites ended up offending a lot of users, causing them to protest in mass. Eventually, Facebook bowed down to the pressure and would hide spammy post into a corner. Over time though, the spammy posts started to reappear as the Wall began moving away from the chronological mechanism to an algorithmic one.

The result is this scored system to surface content or as some call it “Link Bait.” Rather than having useful content or even content from everyone, people now have a heavily curated Wall that invites emotion to hopefully get the person seeing the post to click on it. The way the content presented is very visual to engage users. Most people with a large number of friends probably can no longer see everyone’s posts or activities (which are two separate things in the way the Wall works) and are forced to traverse through each friends’ profile in order to see if they missed something.

As it stands, I find that Facebook has become thoroughly useless, just a massive regurgitated mess of linkbait that serves no purpose outside of attempting to get people to click on articles so that these sites can further track and data mine people. We no longer really see what people are up to but rather just unending links, sometimes faked up with our friends who seemingly endorse them just to show up in our feed.

Some articles have pointed out that many websites/applications are turning away from the Single Sign On capabilities of Facebook and the like because users have become distrustful of having more websites data mine them. With privacy issues surfacing up all the time and with Facebook not guaranteeing concretely the safety of our information, the motivation to use such a platform decreases continuously.

At the moment, I primarily use Facebook as a glorified address book in the cloud. Having the ability to see if a person really is a person without having to reverify the information is quite handy compared to primitive email addresses where accounts can get lost, hacked or unused. If anything, I just comment, periodically like or send private messages to friends. Beyond that I don’t have any use for Facebook any longer.

I rarely make direct contributions about myself to Facebook any longer. Part of the problem I’ve discovered is that I end up alienating more friends with my views or sometimes causing fights between people. Sometimes I have zero desire for some people to comment upon my posting as I have to brace myself for certain repercussions depending on the controversy of the post. I have to refrain from divulging anything since I risk exposing something secret or sensitive.

When the Facebook Application attempted to coerce me into adding the Facebook Messenger application on my phone, I pulled the plug entirely on my phone to Facebook. They had gone too far. My original limit was uninstalling the Facebook application once I saw an autoplaying video advertisement that I could not control. Fortunately, you have that capability at the moment to revoke autoplaying but considering the need to monetize people forcefully, you have to ask yourself how long that will last. I would noticed that even when I typed as I’d send a message, any kind of message, the location icon at the top of my mobile would pop up. That became too creepy for an already greedy application.

On top of that, I’m very tempted on a daily basis to pull the entire Facebook application altogether and getting rid of my profile (a la Stan Marsh from South Park). I only use Facebook outside of private messaging and trolling friends as a read-only device. But I rarely see anything that I care about coming from friends. Usually, I just see oddball news in Ukranian, food pictures or things that make me feel like a social failure because other people are having fun while I stick at home and have a boring life.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who has these sentiments. A friend/former coworker of mine posted a brilliant photo of complete blackness. Supposedly, it was him snapshotting himself in the dark and being lonely. He mentioned how Facebook typically is used to show off how fun people are having. He wanted to contrast that aspect and many of us applauded him. Some people can get away with things like that. But others risk the wrath of their so-called friends because it makes them appear as social outcasts.

I think Facebook is a toxic application/company that will slowly die over time. Perhaps, the company itself has managed to do cutting edge engineering feats and build up a mass of cash to survive, but in its current form and at its current rate, I don’t see any positives to Facebook’s future. If there are any visible cutting edge engineering feats, it doesn’t manifest from the application’s direct point of view. Facebook (along with Google to a degree) might have hurt the engineering cultures in Silicon Valley by promoting images of youthful brogrammers who stay up night and day, programming, drinking and partying and prohibiting people not aligned with that specific culture.

Certainly, there is a need for people to broadcast their whims. Twitter and blogs such as this one certainly fulfill that need (at least for the moment). Facebook though is just too closed and anti-social to a degree. The hopes of being able to discover people you want to meet in this world certainly don’t exist in this platform. Perhaps for the tiny percentage people can get lucky in connecting with those that they do not directly know. However, the context reminds people of their own self-imposed barriers because of the privacy implications of allowing those beyond their own network to partake in.

I think there will be other models for a better system of connectivity between people that will outstrip Facebook. Twitter serves a very specific purpose but still doesn’t provide enough to create a better forum for connectivity. It allows people to broadcast without a doubt but not necessarily improve upon connectivity. Either way, I don’t think Facebook will last another 3-5 years without an overhaul on the philosophy of both the company and the presentation of people.

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