Oh noes. I has a Facebook!

Remember only a few days ago how I was saying how I was avoiding Facebook and running down its denizens? Well now I am one.

Some University friends persuaded me to join and I am sort of glad I did because now I can see exactly how identities get stolen.

Signing up to Facebook involves being asked lots of personal questions which it uses to try to match you with people you might know. It makes quite a lot of this stuff readable by any Facebook user by default. You have to go into the privacy settings and turn a load of stuff off or you will be in trouble very quickly. Quite a lot of the information it wants to make public is exactly the sort of stuff that banks like you to use as security questions. Now, I accept that it is the banks’ fault for using stupid insecure security methods but Facebook sure isn’t helping to keep us secure. Their new “privacy tools” are a load of dropdown options that most users will never use. They need to set much more private defaults and let people use the tools to allow rather than deny access.

Having joined Facebook and spent a few minutes adding friends and nailing down the privacy settings, I had a quick nose around. I really can’t see the point. Everybody has their own page, like a blog, and then Facebook provides tools to aggregate stuff from your friends’ pages. Which sounds cool until you realise that it is meant to be a communications platform not a blogging site and it only needs aggregation because it was unnecessarily fragmented in the first place. The net result is something not much better than e-mail, as used with excessive CCing. Of course, there are Facebook groups, where communication is grouped under a subject rather than a person, which begins to look a bit more useful, but that is hardly any better than any other type of web forum.

Oh, and there are adverts. Lots of adverts.

So what is the appeal? Like many successful sites it takes a lot of existing ideas, some of them very old and basic (e-mail, mailing lists, newsgroups, blogs) and mashes them up into a platform. People like platforms. They can consolidate all your daily inanity into one easy lobotomy. Advertisers like platforms too. They are sticky. They hold on to users and encourage them to take their next steps within the platform rather than use it as a stepping stone to go elsewhere. It feels a bit like Compuserve or AOL, one of those old proprietary networks that was supposed to be better than the internet, until their users told them “Look mate. You are an ISP. Got that? We don’t want your proprietary content. We want cheap internet access.” And those were meant to be the bad old days.

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June 4, 2010. IT, Media, Security, Sensible, Silly.

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