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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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  • Data ownership (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Martz ( 861209 ) on Monday June 04, 2012 @05:28AM (#40206801)

    Users don't care about who owns their data.

    Sit down with the average user and explain to them that Facebook owns their comments, photos, videos, metadata - and they totally don't care. Suggest to them that Facebook might start charging the user for the service (obviously they won't) and the user will freak out as that costs them something real and tangible.

    The author of this article is basically saying that Facebook is vulnerable to failure because the mass of people might leave and join another service. The reason for that happening would be to join a free and open network, but as I stated before (without evidence) most users don't care about a company owning their data anyway - so it's not going to happen.

    For Facebook to fail it has to stop innovating and offering new features, and a competitor has to come up with something new and cool. People will not "leave" Facebook - they'll sign up with the competitor and forget to go back to Facebook to check on what's going on.

    Facebook is going to be around for a while yet, regardless of if geeks "get it" or think it's worth something.

  • by AndrewStephens ( 815287 ) on Monday June 04, 2012 @05:28AM (#40206803) Homepage

    Facebook has reached the pinnacle of social networking - the only place to go now is downhill unless they change. They already have every user who wants a page, the only new users are young kids just getting online - not Facebook's target demographic. Also, they have just gone public which puts pressure on the company to make more money.

    I predict Facebook will start to branch out into video and music more and more in an attempt to get more pages views - it must be galling for Facebook to see people sharing videos with YouTube advertising instead of Facebook's. They are going to have to be careful, users don't like change.

    (One thing users don't want is a whole slew of different social networks. I am on Facebook and G+, but I would only use one if either gave me full control over who sees what. I think projects like Diaspora are always going to be niche ideas)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 04, 2012 @06:09AM (#40206929)

    There was a time when it all made sense. When I first signed up for facebook, it was only people at my university and a handful of other universities. People at other universities could see that you exist, and could message you. You could set your privacy so that only people from your university could see your info. This made sense in the context of not knowing what Facebook's future plans were. At the time it was a very convenient way of keeping up with people you met on campus. Honestly, facebook was ruined when they let the masses in, but it's obvious now that that was their plan all along. When they let the high schoolers and the unwashed masses in, I was reminded again of Eternal September on USENET.

  • No content (Score:4, Insightful)

    by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Monday June 04, 2012 @06:17AM (#40206955) Homepage Journal
    Wow, the article wasted a lot of words essentially saying nothing. Heres the article in 1 sentence: Facebook is big now, but like others before it, it may not be big forever.

    See, was that so hard?
  • Re:Data ownership (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Monday June 04, 2012 @06:35AM (#40207023) Homepage

    Facebook is safe.

    Moving all those photos, messages and contacts to a different site simply isn't going to happen.

    Don't forget that Facebook can copy whatever the other site is offering before it can even gather momentum.

  • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Monday June 04, 2012 @06:37AM (#40207035) Homepage

    Maybe Facebook isn't for you but 99% of the human race seems to like it. That's what counts, not what a bunch of old-timers think of it.

  • Re:Read the EULA (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 04, 2012 @06:49AM (#40207061)
    They need something like that EULA otherwise they can't share your photos/videos with other people.

    And of course they're not going to bother making it so narrow.
  • Re:Data ownership (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lisias ( 447563 ) on Monday June 04, 2012 @06:52AM (#40207081) Homepage Journal

    Facebook *is* going to turn out like Myspace - I just don't know when - perhaps not in my lifetime.

    People are always looking for the next big thing - and the satisfaction saturation (that precedes boredom and the desire to change) are reached exponentially faster after each change.

    Orkut lasted almost 10 years. Perhaps Facebook will face its book, I mean, its nemesis in 6. But I don't think it will manage to last more than 10 years.

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

    by rev0lt ( 1950662 ) on Monday June 04, 2012 @07:02AM (#40207113)
    I'd say that, after the unsurprisingly disappointing IPO, the infinite money faucet has closed. Give them some months to settle, and then you'll start to see less monkeying around new features and more commercial focusing. People didn't buy Facebook shares to "finance the vision". They bought them to make money, and for that, they need to have a business model (and I really doubt that advertising - at current levels - is enough to keep the lights on).
    When they start to put more ads, when some new features start to be paid, it will be the beginning of the end.
  • Re:Read the EULA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 04, 2012 @07:07AM (#40207143)

    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? Shocking.

    You know, I always uploaded pictures on Facebook with intention to publish them to contacts. That is the whole point. I'm even fine with them not paying me money for publishing those pictures to my contact. And if I'm uploading them as 'public', then I'm fine with them showing them to anybody. That is what the 'public' setting is for.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 04, 2012 @07:10AM (#40207149)

    The IT lifers on slashdot don't get it, but the average person doesn't give a rats ass about privacy. If you do? Don't share anything of value on Facebook, just use it to interact with distant relatives, old friends, whatever. Nothing worth griping about on EVERY Facebook article posted here.

  • Re:Data ownership (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pieroxy ( 222434 ) on Monday June 04, 2012 @07:15AM (#40207175) Homepage

    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.

    Watch the stock go below $15 and they'll become that stupid. It's a matter of days.

  • by Sique ( 173459 ) on Monday June 04, 2012 @07:15AM (#40207181) Homepage

    Actually, about 10% of the human race like it. That's the actual number of accounts compared with the size of the human population. That means that 90% of the world still doesn't have an account with facebook.

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. -- F. Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month"