Charlotte Gore thinks so. I’m not so sure. Facebook does some nasty things to privacy, for sure. In fact, Facebook is rapidly becoming to privacy what Google is to gatekeeping, and Lord knows I avoid Google as much as possible. That’s kind of the point though, isn’t it? Nobody is forced to use Facebook just as nobody is forced to use Google. I still DO use Google, just through the (thankfully now working again) Scroogle Scraper. Provided by people who are just as mistrustful of Google as I am, if not more (and certainly more motivated to do something about it), and provided why? Simply telling people that Google is evil isn’t going to work, because people will still use Google because (and finally, I am getting to the point) Google is the best search engine.
Just as Facebook is the best social networking site. In fact, like Google, Facebook has risen from a plethora of similar products to become ubiquitous. Google started as just another search engine, and now it’s a verb (for Christ’s sake) and Facebook has a similar story, emerging from the pack of MySpace, Friends Reunited, Bebo etc. etc. to near-unassailable market prominence. Everyone is on Facebook (except my mum) because it’s the best social networking site. I would opine that in fact that Facebook’s position is even more secure than Google’s: people could switch search engines quite easily (despite Google’s near-total browser search box penetration) if convinced of a better product but to switch social networking sites requires convincing all your friends to switch as well. Facebook has it all sown up, in other words.
Ok, so I’d best get to the point: does Facebook need to be taken down, de-monopolised, people convinced to delete their accounts, whatever? Not really. As I said at the start, nobody is forced to go on Facebook, except by peer pressure. We never say that people are forced to smoke when peer pressure gets the better of them. Well, The Righteous do, and do we really want to be like them? And Facebook isn’t a binary choice like smoking. You can go on Facebook and live your whole life on there: publish every picture you take, update your status every time you take a shit, air your dirty laundry in public and so on; or you can just use Facebook as just another electronic communication method, like MSN, Yahoo!, Twitter or AIM- a glorified email. Nobody is suggesting that they need taking down (well, not any more). People who do the former are stupid: however, people are stupid with their privacy in emails and on MSN and so on. Stupid is as stupid does, and stupid people will always find a way to be stupid. Stupid people are to be pitied, not protected and certainly not protected by taking down a private company like Facebook.
Facebook may be in the ascendant now, and it’s ever-changing “privacy” policies the talking point of the ‘net intelligensia but this will change quite naturally. Once upon a time everyone talked about AOL and it’s ‘stranglehold’ on the internet… Remember those AOL disks that were everywhere (used as coffee coasters and don’t pretend you didn’t. Yes, I’m talking to you) and everyone got their knickers in a knot about it? Whatever happened to that? Things changed quite naturally all by themselves thankyou-very-much and the same will happen with Facebook. Everybody will probably still be on Facebook as it’s quite a handy thing to be on when you meet people -“Facebook Me”- but as better (or simply other) sites become available people will start looking after better zoos, or prettier farms or whatever and Facebook will fade into the background. Facebook may well even be the medium for the word-of-mouth spread of SuperZooWorld.com or whatever people move onto to provide whatever they currently take from Facebook’s menu and it will happen quite naturally. Wu Wei in action, if you will.