Monday, February 11, 2008

The "problem" with facebook (and here actually...)

...because we all like to pretend to know how to fix things.

There are all sorts of blogs, websites, and networking sites scattered over the vast expanse of the internet. They allow many varied ways of connecting and interacting with people that you know, and with those you don't. Some even interact between types, allowing you to reference what you wrote elsewhere, but by far the majority have a very solid wall between their world and the rest of the net.

Why is this a problem? Every now and then there is a concern (valid or not) about something like the privacy provided by a networking site. (Yes, I'm focusing on facebook here, but from what I know of other similar places, this is not an isolated phenomenon.) Even if there is a ruckus created, and people are informed, many of them don't bother leaving because their friends are all using the site and leaving would damage or weaken connections. These people want to leave, but have a lot of pressure to stay.

Now in the free market that we are all so proud to be living in, we deal with such problems by creating alternatives and letting the people choose their own poison. While there are alternative networking sites, under the current setup, entire networks of friends and associates would have to move if they want to stay connected.

So what would be an alternative? Perhaps thing along the lines of a single (more or less) unified language between networking sites that allows the creation and use of as many interfaces as can be dreamed up. To the user, everything would appear as their choice of interface presents it, as though there were no other ways to access this inter-web language; but underneath, there would be a single language that every site uses to communicate changes and updates.

For example. Say I use facebook and you use myspace (because you're terrified that facebook will make a profit off of knowing your favorite books). I have you as a friend on facebook, and you have me as a friend on myspace. When I upload pictures or make updates, you get notification of them on myspace along with the data being stored and presented in whatever way myspace does such things. To each of us it seems as though the other is also using our own networking site.

Here there is more choice, and almost no need to use the same networking site as your friends (there's always that social pressure to conform heya?). Everyone can pick the user interface that they prefer, based on accessibility, privacy, complexity, or what-have-you.

For an example of a similar system in action, I only need to point you towards something that has been in use much longer than networking sites and has more widespread use. Email. There are various email clients, each of which was created and is implemented seperately, that all use the same language to communicate with each other.

I don't yet know how to create such an existence, but I'm sure someone does, and maybe you know them. Or perhaps you have thoughts on the topic? I'm always happy to hear them.

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