Posted by: rolfsky | August 7, 2007

it ain’t all that – Facebook might have started a firestorm

It seems that across the web, a new anti-Facebook sentiment has been growing among journalists and bloggers. Not because of what Facebook has done, but because they haven’t done enough. Even with an “open” platform, they risk being crushed by their own members’ expectations.

About a month ago, I wrote a post heralding the need for a new open “social client”, and Wired recently ran an article entitled, “A Slap in the Facebook: It’s Time for Social Networks To Open Up“. Aside from some factual errors, the article lambasts Facebook for still being a walled garden and also offers up some possibilities for rolling your own FB clone.

Over on the Inquirer, Liam Proven also talks about how you could assemble a loosely-joined social network in his article “Social networking; it’s new, but it isn’t news“, using NNTP, Perl, Python and/or whatever other clever tools wizards have in their pockets. “Hunter” has taken the issue a little more head-on and discussed various ways of creating “Portable profiles – Reducing the cost of joining a new social network“.

Taken in aggregate, the trend points towards growing discontent with Facebook and its ilk. Yes, Mark Zuckerberg might be the media darling with an infectious smile, but how many more Zombie and Werewolf invitations do I need to get in my Facebook inbox before I write the whole thing off?

Unfortunately, Facebook has wandered into familiar territory of social networking by imagining (hoping) that the value is in the network, and not what you get out of the network. This is an easy mistake to make, because nobody wants to believe that their tool is only something you use to get something else done.

If somebody doesn’t want to shut you down, you’re not going far enough.

And what is this firestorm that Facebook might have created? A fury of expectation which can be more fierce than any competitor because it never sleeps, just keeps building in the minds of the malcontented while they dream and plot the revolution. It’s not that Facebook hasn’t done some new and clever work in opening their platform, but they haven’t gone far enough to offer the next-gen interoperable experience. People want more, and FB has given them yet another, site to maintain, monitor, and fret over while still locking it away in a gated community.

People have seen MySpace and LinkedIn and Orkut and Friendster, and now they expect more.

  • more useful
  • more easily integrated
  • more universal

they have not been asking for:

  • more viral apps
  • more movie recommendations
  • more social-network climbing
  • more “thanks for the add”

Social networking will become commoditized just like the telephone did, allowing the users the freedom to send, receive, process and store massive amounts of information with other humans not near them. If Facebook doesn’t sit up, take note, and really figure out what they are solving for, they will be yet another footnote in the history of early 21st century communication platforms.



  1. […]… […]

  2. […] frustration lead me check out the blogsphere for any progress on profile portability. I liked Rolf Skyberg’s rant that “It’s not that Facebook hasn’t done some new and clever work in opening their […]

  3. […] After “social networking” has been rolled around the internet a few times it will be pared down to the bare critical essentials which are universally true: people like to communicate and know what’s going on with other people. We don’t need more viral apps. […]

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