Resisting Facebook’s f8

So, Facebook is opening its f8 developer conference today, and there’s some debate regarding how one should pronounce the event’s title.

Some say the pronunciation should be two syllables, as in the letter F and the number 8. Others, though, suggest that the pronunciation should be “fate,” as in the word denoting ” the development of events beyond a person’s control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power.”

Well, there are some big egos at Facebook, and I would imagine the reality-distortion fields in the company’s boardrooms and hallways have the power to scramble logical thinking and to engender delusions of grandeur. Facebook might actually believe that it is fated to conquer the world, or a least that portion of it that exists online.

Lately much debate has ensued about whether Facebook will render Twitter irrelevant. Like many others, I don’t see a close similarity between the two companies, the online services they offer, their subscriber demographics, or even their current business models. Given Facebook’s prodigious user base, however, there obviously is overlap between its subscribers and Twitter’s.

But the services themselves are very different. From my perspective, Twitter is about communication and information sharing. Facebook, though I haven’t been on it for a long time, seems to be about frivolity, triviality, a veritable online water cooler. It’s designed to be a place where people go for distractions, like television but more interactive.

That’s not surprising because Facebook’s real purposes is to serve as a giant consumer-analytics engine for advertisers. To the extent that it can cover the web, sucking information about what and where its subscribers do in their online existence, Facebook stands to make a lot of money.

But there’s not much to Facebook beyond that. It’s trying to transform its subscribers into an enormous database of likes and dislikes that can be segmented and sold to corporate marketers and advertisers. That’s always been Facebook’s game — as I’ve said here for a long time — and that’s why consumer and customer privacy just isn’t a priority for Facebook.

I’ve always enjoyed the delicious irony that Facebook originated at Harvard University. An institution renowned for erudition and scholarly achievement has produced a commercial entity that does its utmost to culturally impoverish the Internet, and to turn its subscribers into nothing more than data points for advertising campaigns.

Facebook is so malevolently vacuous that it reminds me of the corporate fascism depicted in RoboCop. Facebook is the online manifestation of Omni Consumer Products (OCP), the movie’s fictional, omnipresent megacorporation. Facebook probably would like nothing more than to have its subscribers function solely as consumers, focused only on their likes of dislikes of products and services that advertisers want them to buy.

Like the lecherous huckster in RoboCop who kept repeating the phrase” Ill buy that for a dollar!,” Facebook will try continually to dumb down and commercially condition online communication and interaction.

But I’m not buying what it’s selling, not for a dollar or for any other amount.

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3 responses to “Resisting Facebook’s f8

  1. Your cynical caricature of Facebook leads you to underestimate the service. You admit that you don’t use the service, so you don’t see the vast quantity of noncommercial sharing of ideas, events, photos, and yes, vacuous status updates between friends. If your friends don’t use the service, then there’s not much reason for you to use it, but if they do, it is very enjoyable.

    Yes, there’s a lot of commercial content on Facebook. Yes, Facebook is going to use what it knows about users to help advertisers reach the people they want to reach. But why is this malevolent?

    You say the purpose of the company is to act as a parasite on top of the user base, but the user base must be getting a lot of value out of the service the company has built and continues to evolve.

    • I stopped using Facebook for the reasons I’ve enumerated in this post and others. I think I’ve been clear on those reasons. I have friends who use the service, of course, but I’ve been adamant that they communicate and correspond with me outside Facebook’s proprietary confines. As this exchange demonstrates, one mercifully does not require Facebook to communicate online.

      Like you, I acknowledge that Facebook has a large base of worldwide users. I’m not sure whether those people are “getting a lot of value out of the service,” but they patronize it all the same, to varying degrees and for different reasons.

      Advertising, in the open and done transparently, isn’t objectionable to me. What is objectionable is the covert and surreptitious manner in which Facebook repeatedly has violated the privacy of its subscribers for commercial gain. From the outset, Facebook should have been candid and open with its users about what they would be sacrificing as a condition of using the service.

      To this day, the majority of Facebook users probably don’t understand the privacy implications associated with using the service. To summarize, I don’t like the way Facebook does business.

  2. I like your analogy but I think Facebook will kick OCP’s butt. In Robocop, you actually know what the OCP is about. Facebook is clever in hiding behind the veil of “likes,” “friends” and minigames.

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