Facebook is getting all sorts of love from the Web tech crowd for its F8 platform. Webware’s Caroline McCarthy says “Anecdotally, I can say that ‘techy’ people I know, who had originally dismissed Facebook as a glorified address book, are now starting to think that it […]

Facebook is getting all sorts of love from the Web tech crowd for its F8 platform. Webware’s Caroline McCarthy says “Anecdotally, I can say that ‘techy’ people I know, who had originally dismissed Facebook as a glorified address book, are now starting to think that it has a whole lot more street cred.” And Marc Andreessen says that “the new Facebook Platform is a dramatic leap forward for the Internet industry.”

I may be turning into one of those blogging curmudgeons who disrespects the latest thing online as dangerous and crude, possibly even psychologically damaging, but I see lots to worry about with Facebook. It doesn’t seem like a step forward, but rather another attempt by a for-profit company to lock us into one way of doing things — their way. And that seems counter to the ideals upon which the web is based.

However, I didn’t get del.icio.us when I first started using it and now I can’t live without it, so take my crankiness with a large grain of virtual salt, then share with me your own opinions, pros and cons, about Facebook.

With those caveats around my crankiness, here’s what I hate about Facebook:

1. You have to login to see anything. The web’s accelerated growth is based on openly available information. If we start putting everything behind logins, we won’t have the virtuous cycle of sharing and building and an expanding web of information and services. On the social side of things, if we limit our notes to just our friends or people we meet via our friends. we could miss out on some really important connections.

2. It reproduces what we already have. It has messages that are email-like, a contact list, an events list, a Craigslist-style marketplace, Twitter-style updates, and blogging via its Notes application. I can see why they’d want to be a one-stop-shop for virtual interactions, but in each case, their implementation seems weak compared to my favored solution. I prefer a best-of-breed approach for my online communications tools.

3. Users don’t learn anything about HTML, JavaScript, and CSS by adding applications. While Facebook’s approach is obviously easier than messing around with HTML directly, it doesn’t contribute to a growing community of web standards savvy people. True, even WordPress offers sidebar widgets now that don’t require any mucking with code. But I still hope for a day when understanding markup, styles, and a little bit of dynamic scripting is almost as common as knowing how to use Microsoft Word.

4. You don’t own the URL for your profile. Creating your own website with a URL you own is part of creating your brand. Facebook can be a decent complement to your own website, definitely — but will some people just skip the hard work of creating their own place on the web and just stick with Facebook?

5. You don’t own what you do. Once you put a lot of time into Facebook you may have generated a whole lot of interesting information about your social and professional life. But how do you get that data out? How do you do anything with it? There’s no full-powered export to get all your friends data out.

6. The applications are toys. Recently popular include Moods, Horoscopes, and Graffiti. I know how important social interactions are in creating a sense of ambient intimacy. Virtual workers need lightweight human contact as much or maybe more than everyone else.

7. The applications don’t interact with each other. Though they’re integrated in the sense of using the same social network, they don’t seem to care at all about what other apps are doing. I’m not opposed to building up something from little pieces, but as long as it’s all on one platform, shouldn’t there be some additional communication? Given that individual applications are so limited in capability, I’m not sure what sort of integration could really bring any value.

8. You can’t customize the look. Facebook’s blue and white scheme looks nice, and it’s definitely more calm than the riotous displays you find on MySpace. But I don’t want a home online that I can’t change to reflect my own personality and — if I ever get around to creating one — my personal brand.

9. The RSS output is limited. Facebook’s RSS support is pretty limited. For example, the News Feed that aggregates your friends’ mini feeds lacks RSS output — and that’d be really nice to have so you could see what everyone’s up to without having to go to the Facebook site.

10. It feels too group-oriented. The first thing I did on Facebook was ensure I was properly associated with my alma mater, because that seemed important. In my blogging, by contrast, the organizations with which I associate seem less important than who I am individually (er… aside from my association with the juggernaut that runs this blog). The Facebook experience seems to promote the importance of organizations over people — and that seems like a return to the web circa 1999.

What do I like about Facebook? I love the idea of integrating all my social software with one list of friends instead of having to reproduce my contacts across multiple sites and services. However, I might prefer to have my browser do that or run a contact manager on my own site that other web services could read instead of handing over all the information to a third-party site.

What do you think about Facebook? Share in the comments.

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

  1. I think you take FB way too serious. It’s a way to stalk online friends and have some fun IMHO. Don’t forget the origin, the roots of FB. It was a way to create some way of (online) interaction among students. It is now open to everyone, but I don’t think the core of the platform has changed much.

    If I want to build a genuine profile in addition to my website/blog/online identity, I think there are other options. First comes in mind LinkedIn, less closed already. But many of the OpenID platforms could provide what you seem to be looking for. Question still is: how many will allow total HTML control?
    If I need more profile, I might just prefer to have my own online identity web site, which could serve me as a hub/router to everything else I do online. Something like a self-hosted OpenID profile, linking to all my stuff. And I would use that URL everywhere I comment/write/whatever. Not the URL of my main blog.

    FB is no online home. It’s the students house. :)

  2. Stephen Collins Wednesday, June 13, 2007

    Anne, I’ve got to say I’m with you. I’m strongly considering killing my Facebook account, as I just don’t see any value in it. Same with MyBlogLog, Wink and a few others.

  3. @Franky: yes, I’m probably overreacting. Can’t believe how much hype the new platform is getting though.

    @Stephen: phew! glad to hear you say that.

  4. Rory Marinich Wednesday, June 13, 2007

    Hmm… for some reason comments I’m writing aren’t showing up here.

  5. Rory Marinich Wednesday, June 13, 2007

    I think you’re missing the point of Facebook. It’s not like MySpace or LinkedIn, despite people who insist on comparing the two to Facebook. It’s meant to be a network where you meet people you already know, and keep tabs on each other. It is not for getting a job, or displaying your “face” to the world.

  6. Rory Marinich Wednesday, June 13, 2007

    Facebook doesn’t intend to be a Twitter competitor. They added live updates so that people could see what their friends were doing. Similarly, they created a fairly robust messaging system that’s surprisingly not email – because it’s meant to be a messaging system. Similarly, it’s not meant to be a place where you’re supposed to learn coding: it’s a place to have fun while networking with friends. Food fights, though you may not agree, show a very interesting network between which of your friends have the most free time, I’ve found. And there are other apps that use a more robust system, such as the Movies app, or Amazon’s book reviews application. Also, though many don’t, apps CAN connect to each other. At least, they’re capable of according to Zuckerberg’s speech. I’d be interested in hearing, though, what you would suggest ADDING to make Facebook less “light-weight.”

  7. Rory Marinich Wednesday, June 13, 2007

    RSS is a valid point: it would make Facebook a bit more like Twitter for that stuff, and my Tumblr blog would greatly appreciate that.

    Finally: how can you possibly say that removing styling options is a BAD thing? Have we gone past the point where web sites are supposed to look the same stylistically throughout? I like Facebook looking like Facebook. Kinda like how Google products always look like Google products.

    Adding a URL: I’d hate that idea. It would make Facebook into more of a common network than a truly enclosed one.

    If you have any feedback on MY feedback, feel free to email me with comments, since I’m not the best at tracking discussions.

  8. Anne, the hype and everything else right at the moment around FB is inflated. FB is too dangerous, and that in many aspects.

    What happens if tomorrow MZ wakes up badly and decides not to allow 3rd parties/apps to sell affiliates (think iLike and last.fm)?
    What happens if the [future] new Yahoo gets bought?
    What happens if FB becomes nothing more than a VC burner and the epitome of a bubble, because too expensive to sell out? What happens then to your profile?

    The platform is brilliant. Hence the hype is logical. No, forget that. MZ pulled a master act of economical strategics : he built a Virb (think total identity profile possibility), majorly relying on limited 3rd party developers who even host everything they create. Right now he controls everything. But there are too many risks.
    FB is no twitter. Where’s BBC?
    Will CBS allow last.fm to become a major FB application and heavily pump money into FB without seeing the users sign actively sign up at last.fm?
    Will many overnight popular application developer be able to bring up the needed money for a widget such as SuperPoke in the long run?
    What will happen to iLike if tomorrow MZ has a feud with the iLike crew?

    Or could we see something even more spectacular and say fe. Plaxo be integrated into FB? Then you’d really have the new Yahoo, built with external aid.
    But then again… do you use Yahoo, Google, MS or .mac as your online profile?

    Strategically, F8 is a masterpiece. Will it become a burner? Lets wait and see.
    I enjoy the fun I have with friends at FB. And luckily, I need to login, because it’s more fun than anything else. PW protected has advantages.

    And now I’m done. I need to go take care of my 26 social profiles!

  9. @Rory: missing the point, yes, that’s what I’m worried about! Had I encountered this in college I surely would have joined in happily. If all it remains is a social network for interacting with people we already know (and maybe meeting the people they know too) sounds great… but this talk of “dramatic leaps forward” for the Internet concerns me a little.

    @Franky: it’s the masterpieces that concern me, you know? Having fun: all good. Take over the web: not so good.

  10. Rory Marinich Wednesday, June 13, 2007

    Actually, MZ said that a part of Facebook’s platform involves letting 3rd-party company make money from their systems. That way, it’s a win-win-win situation.

    I agree with the other stuff you said, though.

Comments have been disabled for this post