We're Watching You, Facebook.


The Blog of Tom Webster

  2010-06-01 03:23:00 PDT

As you all know, a while ago I deleted my Facebook account, and it was due in part to a few things. First off, the constantly changing and ever-confusing privacy settings. Second, my postings being censored on Facebook. Third, and frankly, the biggest reason: I didn't want to encourage my friends to use a system that would put their data and privacy at risk. Well... Reason number one (and therefore number three) have been fixed. The jury is still out on reason number two, but I feel that with my continued reliance on free and open services, and the fact that I will be using Facebook for links to the outside, free, open web, that the censorship will be minimal if at all.Facebook is in a very precarious position right now, the entire tech industry and all of the major media outlets are watching them and what they do. And they know it. Zuckerberg and the Facebook executive members have come out of the woodwork to explain that they've "Missed the mark." Amazingly enough, another company that shares some of what Facebook is currently going through is Toyota. With the Prius going through numerous product recalls, the most media-laden being a braking problem due to a software bug, Toyota is feeling the consumer-distrust-pinch just as much as Facebook is right now. Although.. this doesn't have to work in the disinterest of consumers/users.
A few people have told me something along the lines of, "If I'm going to buy a car anytime in the next year, it will be a Prius.", and while this may sound absolutely insane, it makes logical sense. Toyota is being watched. By everyone. Each and every consumer, safety agencies, government regulators, factory workers. Everyone that so much as glances at a Prius are doing their part to inspect, double and triple-check the design and safety of the vehicle because of the pressure. You, as a consumer, can be guaranteed, that the Prius is going to be the safest, most inspected, most tested car of this year. Toyota can't screw it up again, it would be a death-knell for the model as well as the global image of the entire company. Toyota is walking on eggshells for a good reason and the biggest winners are the consumers.
Same story with Facebook. They've fucked up; and this time, they've fucked up bad enough to anger their entire userbase, cause a media outcry, and drive users to create worldwide movement to quit the service entirely. If any online service is positioned to lose it all over one more misstep, its Facebook. One more privacy violation, information-leaking bug, or advertising leak, and people will jump ship, and for good this time. This month, Facebook got a wake-up call from its more prominent, and more vocal userbase, and if they want to stand any chance at all at winning these users back (and keeping them), they need to be very, very, very, careful about how they go about changing policies, or introducing new features.
This is why I've decided to come back to Facebook. They really messed up, they got the attention of the entire tech world, and even a good portion of the 'normal' world's media. They can't afford to make another mistake. If Facebook even so much as breathes the wrong way, everyone and their mother will be grabbing the torches and pitchforks to put down this monster once and for all. Facebook is incredibly convenient, but at what cost? For now, I feel a bit safer knowing that the entire tech industry will be holding this service accountable for how they treat their users. Again, they haven't fixed everything, at all. There is still a huge issue with exporting data from the service. Baby steps. They've done a good thing this week, I for one hope this isn't a one-time scenario, I really want Facebook to start being a more open platform. There are some things that I will not change about my decision to untie myself from the platform, however: I will continue to use Buzz, Twitter, PicasaWeb, and other open sites for my content over Facebook. My Facebook page will serve a dual purpose: Aggregation and social connectivity. When I publish content or post images, it won't be a Facebook post or uploaded to a Facebook photo album; Facebook will be getting a link to these other places on the web. While this might be slightly annoying for my Facebook followers, I can't take the chance of any of my content getting locked into Facebook permanently. I won't do it. Congratulations, Zuckerberg, you've won back this user, but remember, as soon as you fuck up again, I'm out and I'll take people with me. We're watching you, Facebook, and you can't afford to let us down again.
Either way, none of this will matter once Diaspora comes out in September, but that's another post for another day.