Farewell, Facebook

My first website was born in 1995.  Previous to that, I had participated in a few mailing lists and lurked on Usenet, but that was my first public internet presence.  Those were the days before background images, before cascading stylesheets, before, even, the <blink> tag.  Most days, my browser of choice was Lynx — mainly because there was always a line for the X workstations, whereas the amber Wyse terminals were always free.

My first foray into what might now, loosely, be called “Social Media” was LiveJournal in mid 2001.  Back then, it was called blogging.  Marketing hadn’t introduced the term “Social Media” yet.

In 2007, I set up my own blog.  I posted there in parallel with LiveJournal.  I liked the control of hosting my blog.  I liked owning all of my own content on my own server.  Perhaps most importantly, LJ was starting to do some “funny” things with regard to how it was administered and self-policed.

In mid 2008, I cut ties with LiveJournal. Although [info]brad had done some great things to design and implement OpenID in LiveJournal, he left LJ to do his own things and their implementation of OpenID, among other things, got further and further busted.  There had recently been a scandal of some sort that seemed important then, but is entirely forgettable now.  I still maintain an LJ account and use it for reading friends over there, but never use it for posting anymore.  (Spoiler alert: I’ll be doing the same for Facebook.)

Most recently, I have been using Facebook.  And by “using,” I mean “using it as a dumping ground for all of my social media activities.”  My tweets go there as status updates.  My Flickr uploads are imported, as are my Pandora likes, Digg activity, and whatnot.  In recent years, Facebook has taken everyone’s privacy and peed on it.  In recent months, they’ve pooped on it.  #seriously.

When Facebook started, most everything was private.  The delineation between public and friends-only was quite clear.  In fact, by default, most of your settings were private.  Recently, they made a change such that everything that was private suddenly became public.  After all, it is difficult to show up in Google search results (which they need, to get incoming clicks, to monetize with ads) if the whole site is marked “private.”  You can see in the following animated chart (taken from “The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook“) how they’ve gradually made everything but your contact info and birthday publicly default.  Now they are talking about a Foursquare/Gowalla clone, and you can bet that they’ll want to make your location public so they can better serve localized ads.

Facebook, as a company, cares very little about its users.  They recently rolled out the ability for third-party sites to put a “Like” button on their pages.  Did you know that clicking it gives that site carte-blanche to dump updates into your news feed?  Even if you do not click, those “Like” badges will end up being “web bugs” to better track your travels across non-Facebook websites and link them against your Facebook advertising profile.  Did you know that taking a quiz on Facebook not only gives your information to the quiz owner, but also private details about all of your friends without their direct concent?  Facebook is now under investigation by the FTC.  Recently, they had a huge bug allowing you to peek at your friends’ steamy online chat logs.

Of course, you can manually manage all of your privacy settings — you just have to navigate through 50 settings to reach the 170 specific options to do so.  (That same linked article compares the length of privacy policies and notes that Facebook has the only one longer than the United States Constitution.)

As I stated above, Facebook has very little concern for its users.  It seems to have less and less over time.  My own website?  I can control that.  Twitter?  It’s simple and straightforward.  Either everything is private/friends-only or everything is public.  Flickr?  It has a simple set of sharing levels for family, friends, and everyone else.  Changes to the privacy policy of these other sites are not sudden, jarring, or insulting.

People are leaving Facebook.  People whose opinions I respect and trust.  I am not to the point where I feel comfortable doing that yet, but anyone following me on Facebook is going to see much less of me there.  I have deleted the Facebook app from my iPhone and I will gradually be phasing out my posting there over the next week.

Diaspora is looking like a formidable opponent to Facebook and will have the advantage of being an open protocol and platform, much like email and web browsers are today, as opposed to a platform owned and controlled by a single company.  They have nothing to show yet, but their theory and fund-raising look promising.  I will certainly keep my eye on them.

In the meantime, you can find me as BrianEnigma on Twitter, Flickr, Foursquare, Digg, FriendFeed (owned by Facebook, yes, but still seemingly autonomous and free of Facebook’s privacy nastiness), or just read my blog here on netninja.com.

Posted in: Dear Diary

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Brian Enigma

Brian Enigma is a Portlander, manipulator of atoms & bits, minor-league blogger, and all-around great guy. He typically writes about the interesting “maker” projects he's working on, but sometimes veers off into puzzles, software, games, local news, and current events.

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