I want to talk a little bit about Facebook. Facebook, the all-encompassing. Facebook, the omnipotent, the omnipresent, the ever-more-integrated. Facebook, the would-be identity validator for the Internet.
Facebook, the Destroyer of Worlds.
I have problems with Facebook. Not just its censorious ways (which aren’t new), tho’ I’m obviously more than unfond. What I have issues with is how it more and more completely replicates the old Real World from which the net used to be an escape.
No, I don’t mean seeing all those lame old “office humour” graphics start to float down my news stream, tho’ gods know that by itself is enough to burn down the server farm and start over.
I’ll be right back! With a rifle!
I also don’t mean the echo chamber aspects, or the preference for soundbite and short form over longer posts, and I don’t even mean the way that they seem to want to replicate CompuServe of the early 1980s – a closed box that you never leave but that you visit first.1
No. I mean the way Facebook strives diligently to replicate the old corporate-dominant communications structure.
Think about it a bit. Whether you think of it this way or not, Facebook is a fakenet. It claims to be about people being able to communicate with other people in ways they never could before. That’s even in its letter to investors and prospectus; they don’t care about the business model, they claim, they care about the technology and the project.
And yet, it has invented nothing in this regard.
No; that’s unfair. They have. There’s something about it that older, pre-net people understand. They can and do use it, when Livejournal and Tumblr and even Twitter are beyond them. I don’t know how or why, but this is an achievement.
Okay, that part’s pretty cool. HI MOM!2
That’s been a big deal for Facebook, because it lets them reach that older, pre-net market that has a pretty good amount of dosh3. And, more importantly, that pre-net market which is still invested in the old, pre-net world.
And most importantly of all, it brings in those who respond when Facebook actively suppresses content users want in favour of paid content from corporate/moneyed backers.
Why does Facebook have pages? So you can subscribe to them and see what their owners post? No. So you can subscribe to them, they can know what you like for better advertising, and so they can force page owners to pay up in order to let more than 30% or so of those subscribers actually see those page posts.
If you have the dosh, you can do that – and also place ads. Lots of companies do, after all. If you don’t? If you’re small, if you’re indie, if you’re new? Well, screw you, moocher.
Also your eyes
It’s the same old corporatist communications paradigm, now brought online more successfully than anywhere else on the net. Moneyed speech counts more than any other speech, even if you look for one and not the other.
The indie, the new, the not-moneyed, that’s what you want to see? Well, we’ll let you see about 30% of it. That’s the loss-leader. The rest, we’ll substitute in what we want you to see – which is to say, what we’re paid to make sure you see.
Facebook favours the established over the new, the large over the small, the moneyed over the startup, through suppression and replacement. It is, in short, the direct opposite of the free-and-open peer-to-peer ethos of the Internet. It is everything wrong with the old world, wodged into your web browser. It is the old paradigm, reborn.
And the importance of being able to sell you with confidence? Well, that’s why they’re starting to do things like this:
So, yeah. Facebook. I have issues with it. Go fig.
1: I know, I know, not all of you do that. But I have stats. A good post will draw 450ish readers. If even one of those reads comes in from Facebook, it’ll be unusual. My blog post read rate is literally <0.1% from there.</p>
2: Actual mom not included.
3: By which I of course mean, sigh, Baby Boomers. And also the lagging edge of Generation X, or some of it.