May 14, 2010
Facebook is Toast
I got off Facebook in 2009. I am smiling as others publicly proclaim their freedom from, or their disappointment with, the (still growing) superorganism.
Facebook is currently facing a barrage of negative feedback about its privacy policies and methods (and now it's IPO). Yes, these are valid criticisms, but they are not Facebook's achilles heel. They have a bigger problem.
It is the structure of Facebook that foretells it a fate of AOL -- a popular online site in the 1990s that grew quickly, and also failed quickly. Back then, AOL was also supposed to be the "new internet", just as some are predicting now that Facebook will be the new WWW.
Facebook, and most other social networking sites are structured wrong! They are places where we have to go to connect and communicate. That is not how we naturally connect and interact as humans! Their technology does not support our natural and inherent sociology. Yes, we meet people in places and on specific sites, but once established, relationships exist without borders, walls, time and place. We live person-to-person, not person-to-site-to-person. The site is just an unnecessary intermediary most of the time.
Is Facebook a "land-line" in a mobile world?
The telephone land line and the old Ma Bell is good metaphor for the future of Facebook. With a land line you had to be "in a place" to receive a call -- at home, or at your desk at work. If you were not there you missed the contact and you probably did not know you missed it until you returned to the place. Messages, voice mail, beepers and other technology tried to fix the problem, but it persisted. Ma Bell owned all of the switchboards and had centralized control/ownership of the network. Facebook also has centralized control/ownership of the data base of social connections/objects -- the social graph. One source shopping -- take it or leave it. Landlines are hub-and-spoke (a.k.a. hierarchy), while mobile is peer-to-peer.
All your social graphs are belong to us[sic].
Our personal networks, as a whole, are not centralized in once place, they are distributed as we are, wherever we are. Mobile technology allows the call, the connection, to go where we are -- the device is always with us. We can make an immediate decision if, and how, we will take the connection. If we decide not to, we know right away that an attempt has been made and from whom. This is how we naturally network -- we decide on the fly, who to talk to, in what voice, and how much to share. I may deal you differently tomorrow than today depending upon the current context. Mobile technology also breaks up the centralized data base of connections and objects and allows for a distributed model. We each have our data, but we share a common protocol [PTTP? = person to person transfer protocol].
I am talking about a NON site-based social network!
Putting Facebook on mobile devices does not solve the problem -- it is like adding "speed dial" or "call forwarding" to your home phone. Facebook does not allow for natural flexibility of human interaction, you and your relationships are ossified in their computer code and in their data base. In a truly networked world we do not have to go anywhere to connect to others -- we just ping from where we are at, and wait for the response from where they are at -- peer to peer without going through Queen Between (Ma Bell/Facebook).
Facebook is still as popular as sliced bread, but many people are seeing it in a new, unflattering way. They have stopped blindly trusting Facebook. The digerati will leave first, and then the later adopters -- leaving the AOL crowd behind.
Update: So, what I am suggesting is space instead of place. In space you have no definite location/place, you only positioned in relation to everyone else in the space. You are located by who you are connected to, it's all relative. Quantum Physics explains this with atomic particles. We need to understand this with social entities also.
Update2: Another good analogy for current social networks are the email systems of the early internet — they could not talk to each other. You had to join each system to be able to receive/send information with everyone you knew. Once SMTP came into play the walls between the systems fell down. You could now have one email identity and connect with any other identity -- regardless of place/membership. What is the SMTP for online social networks? Webfinger may be a promising technology for un-siloing our on-line social networks.