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Why Facebook's Network Effects Are Overrated 183

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from a contrarian take on the power of Facebook from hacker Benjamin Mako-Hill: "A lot of people interested in free software, and user autonomy and network services are very worried about Facebook. Folks are worried for the same reason that so many investors are interested: the networks effects brought by hundreds of millions of folks signed up to use the service. ... Facebook is vulnerable to the next thing more than many technology firms that have benefited from network effects in the past. If users are given compelling reasons to switch to something else, they can with less trouble and they will. That compelling reason might be a new social network with better features or an awesome distributed architecture that allows freedom for users and the ability of those users to benefit from new and fantastic things that Facebook's overseers would never let them have and without the things Facebook's users suffer through today. Or it might be a sexier proprietary box to store users' private information. It doesn't mean that I'm not worried about Facebook. I remain deeply worried. It's just not very hard for me to imagine the end."
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Why Facebook's Network Effects Are Overrated

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  • Re:Data ownership (Score:5, Informative)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Monday June 04, 2012 @06:29AM (#40207005) Journal

    The author of TFA is also missing something even more fundamental and that is the users don't give a damned about free as in freedom all they give a shit about is convenient. Most users of FB that I've watched are using it for the same reason my GF uses it, and that is to keep in touch with distant friends/relatives easier than email. Her old HS buddies and distant relatives can find her in seconds on FB and contact her, no need to know an email address, and they can keep in touch through FB with a minimum of work.

    So the ONLY way I could see FB going down is if they did the same dumbass mistake that MySpace did, and that was spamming the crap out of the users. Everyone I know ditched MySpace not because they didn't like it or felt the need for the "freedom" of FB, its just because MySpace started spamming all over the place. With a service like FB its really their audience to lose, and by doing smart moves like buying Zynga (I swear those games are like catnip to females) I just don't see any real dumbass moves happening.

    But I don't think something "cool" would be enough because people are basically lazy and FB could just copy whatever the feature was just as Zynga rips off other games. No the only way I see FB going down is if they decide they need to "monetize the users more" and basically crap all over the network but I haven't seen any signs so far they are THAT stupid.

  • Read the EULA (Score:5, Informative)

    by Savage-Rabbit ( 308260 ) on Monday June 04, 2012 @06:39AM (#40207039)

    Facebook doesn't own my data, I still have all my photos I uploaded

    Actually by uploading your private data to Facebook you granted them a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide IP-license to use any of your stuff long as it is on the Facebook network even if it isn't posted there under your account. From their EULA:

    "For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it."

  • Re:Read the EULA (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday June 04, 2012 @07:56AM (#40207323) Journal

    Are you trying to tell me, that if I upload my pictures to the service to publishes them to my contacts, then the service will have the right to publish those pictures to my contacts?

    Yes. They also have the right to sell those pictures to anyone who wants to buy them, such as Starbucks for promotional material, or if you upload sexually explicit photos then they would be legally allowed to sell them to porn sites. The same applies to any music that you upload, along with any writings or other creative content.

  • by thetoadwarrior ( 1268702 ) on Monday June 04, 2012 @08:19AM (#40207429) Homepage
    No one can answer that but what we do know is that as of the end of 2010 only 30% of the world's population apparently has internet access. So if only 10% of the world's population likes FB that means 20% who have net access still opt not to have it and not due to technical limitations. []

    I suspect increasingly a lot of FB accounts are doing to be dud accounts of no real value because companies like spotify force people to login via Facebook so they create an account just so they can have spotify.

    Spotify and everyone else has to quit assuming everyone on the net has a Facebook account. They don't and in fact most people don't.
  • Re:Read the EULA (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday June 04, 2012 @08:52AM (#40207597) Journal
    You retain the copyright on them, you grant them a license. Facebook doesn't own your photographs, just the right to do whatever thy want to them. Oh, and you only have to have left them public for a second for Facebook to transfer this license to a subsidiary, at which point the 'unless already shared' clause kicks in.
  • Re:Data ownership (Score:4, Informative)

    by rev0lt ( 1950662 ) on Monday June 04, 2012 @12:10PM (#40209719)
    First google hit - []
    85% of revenue is made from advertising. And those revenue numbers aren't up to par with the company size, or IPO valuation. Not even close.
  • Re:Data ownership (Score:5, Informative)

    by Psychochild ( 64124 ) <psychochild @ g m> on Monday June 04, 2012 @01:06PM (#40210463) Homepage

    There's a lot of activity on Google+, the problem is that you have to invest some time and effort to find the good conversations.

    The circles Google+ uses are it's best feature and it's biggest weakness. You can send out updates only to people who you want to see. But, the problem is that newcomers to the network don't see anything you're just sharing with a circle. So, to someone who just signs up, it looks like there isn't much going on.

    In my case, I was lucky enough to have a few people involved with indie tabletop RPG development add me, probably because I'm a somewhat known MMO developer. From them I was able to add a few more people, and some of them shared their circles, and now I have nearly 3000 people who post about tabletop RPG stuff in my circles. There's a wealth of information there, but if I hadn't found the first few people I wouldn't have known about it.

    I wonder if Google+ could do something about this. Maybe have some "official" circles for people to join into to see some activity immediately upon joining. It won't replace personal circles, but might help fight the perception that nothing goes on at Google+.

    Ultimately, the lesson here is that you get out of Google+ proportional to what you invest into it. If you just add a few friends to circles it's boring. Find some existing circles on stuff you care about and it'll blow your mind.

Information is the inverse of entropy.