Sometime ago, I deleted my Facebook account. Then a few months ago, I had to start another one, because a professor of mine wanted to do some of the class online discussion on Facebook. That class ends soon, and I will de-face again. Here is why:
I don’t want to be forced into a system that is controlled by a single entity. I think it becomes dangerous. The world wide web was built on the premise of open standards and open access. Sir Tim Berners-Lee recently wrote a great article for Scientific American on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the world wide web. The whole thing is a worthy read, but I will quote only a few paragraphs here:
The Web evolved into a powerful, ubiquitous tool because it was built on egalitarian principles and because thousands of individuals, universities and companies have worked, both independently and together as part of the World Wide Web Consortium, to expand its capabilities based on those principles.
The Web as we know it, however, is being threatened in different ways. Some of its most successful inhabitants have begun to chip away at its principles. Large social-networking sites are walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the Web. Wireless Internet providers are being tempted to slow traffic to sites with which they have not made deals. Governments—totalitarian and democratic alike—are monitoring people’s online habits, endangering important human rights.
If we, the Web’s users, allow these and other trends to proceed unchecked, the Web could be broken into fragmented islands. We could lose the freedom to connect with whichever Web sites we want. The ill effects could extend to smartphones and pads, which are also portals to the extensive information that the Web provides.
The idea that I can link to any site on the web, and any site can link here, and any user can follow those links is foundational.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg used last week’s Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco to share his most sweeping vision yet of how Facebook will fundamentally change the music, film, TV and media industries within the next five years. Zuckerberg believes strongly that insurgent entrepreneurs will “reform” the music, film, TV, news, e-commerce and perhaps many other industries using Facebook as a platform. Facebook will then profit from the value that it has added to the new landscape through advertising and, perhaps, other partnerships.
I saw a billboard today (along I10 in Baton Rouge) for a well known brand of vodka. The website listed on the billboard was the company’s Facebook page. I don’t get it. It’s not like this company doesn’t have its own web presence. I have been told that companies like Facebook, because it has “all those users”, but “all those users” are also available on the open web, plus many more.
Have we forgotten about the last days of AOL, when they were trying to control our internet experience? We should heed the warnings of Sir Berners-Lee and be vigilant for the open web. We will be in trouble if it slips away while we aren’t paying attention, and the curmudgeon in me wants to say that that is exactly what Facebook would like to happen.