Derek Thompson thinks things are going to be less awesome, from here on out, because of Facebook’s failed IPO:
If we’re graduating from the “making delightful and cheap things” stage of the social media age to the “making money” stage, make no mistake: Things will get less delightful. In order to be profitable, it is highly likely that Twitter can only get more annoying, Pandora can only get more interrupt-y, Tumblr can only get more cluttered, Facebook can only get more devious, and the app baubles on your iPhone can only get more expensive.
The first few years of the social media revolution have been a golden age of tech utilitarianism, where maximizing users’ delight was considered, quite literally, the only currency that mattered. In Part II of the revolution, the desired currency is poised to change from attention to profit. That’s a shame. It doesn’t mean that the programs you love are anywhere close to coming to an end. It just means that things are about to get a little less awesome.
A lot of buzz on the interwebs today about Facebook’s apparent third effort to build their own smart phone, and people trying to dissect the reasoning behind it.
For Facebook, the motivation is clear; as a newly public company, it must find new sources of revenue, and it fears being left behind in mobile, one of the most promising areas for growth.
There is a saying, generals spend a lot of time planning how to fight the last war and are therefore surprised by the new one when it occurs. In this case, Bilton and Simpson are focused on the current smartphone marketplace, the one dominated by Apple and Google, where social has largely been an afterthought, and where social capabilities have been provided by apps, like Facebook in a browser. (Leaving aside Apple’s partial integration of Twitter into iOS.)
The next war will be won by the players that build the best social experience into the guts of next generation smartphones. Social capabilities will be wired into the device at a foundational level, not at the application level. And this is why Facebook must develop its own operating system and mobile devices that run it. It must square off with Apple, Google, and, yes, Microsoft still has a chance, here.
All of these stories suggest that Wall Street is increasingly turning into a giant favor-and-front-running factory, where the big banks and broker-dealers that channel vast streams of crucial non-public information (about the markets generally and their clients specifically) are also trading for their own accounts, and sharing information with a select group of “preferred investors,” who in turn help the TBTF banks move markets in this or that desired direction by jumping on or off various pigpiles at the right times.
Sooner or later, people are going to clue into the fact that one or two big banks, acting in concert with a choice assortment of unscrupulous “preferred investors,” can at least temporarily prop up or topple just about anything they want, from Greece to Bear Stearns to Lehman Brothers. And if you can move markets and bet on them at the same time, it’s impossible to not make tons of money, which incidentally is made at everyone else’s expense. So we should always be on the lookout for any evidence that that sort of coordinated, non-disclosed activity is taking place.
She logged into her Facebook as I requested, and as I followed the COO’s instructions to scan her timeline and friends list looking for evidence of moral turpitude, I became aware she was writing something on her iPad.
“Taking notes?” I asked politely.
“No,” she smiled, “Emailing a human rights lawyer I know.” To say that the tension in the room could be cut with a knife would be understatement of the highest order. “Oh?” I asked. I waited, and as I am an expert in out-waiting people, she eventually cracked and explained herself.
“If you are surfing my Facebook, you could reasonably be expected to discover that I am a Lesbian. Since discrimination against me on this basis is illegal in Ontario, I am just preparing myself for the possibility that you might refuse to hire me and instead hire someone who is a heterosexual but less qualified in any way. Likewise, if you do hire me, I might need to have your employment contracts disclosed to ensure you aren’t paying me less than any male and/or heterosexual colleagues with equivalent responsibilities and experience.”
I got her out of the room as quickly as possible. The next few interviews were a blur, I was shaken. And then it happened again. This time, I found myself talking to a young man fresh out of University about a development position. After allowing me to surf his Facebook, he asked me how I felt about parenting. As a parent, it was easy to say I liked the idea. Then he dropped the bombshell.
His partner was expecting, and shortly after being hired he would be taking six months of parental leave as required by Ontario law. I told him that he should not have discussed this matter with me. “Oh normally I wouldn’t, but since you’re looking through my Facebook, you know that already. Now of course, you would never refuse to hire someone because they plan to exercise their legal right to parental leave, would you?”
What could I say? I guess we have another hire whether he’s qualified or not. Here’s the bottom line: My ability to select the best candidates for our positions has been irreparably compromised by looking into their private lives. I’ve been “tainted” by knowledge of their sexual orientation, illnesses, religion, political affiliations, and other factors that expose us to anti-discrimination legislation. We can’t even claim that the employee improperly disclosed these matters to us, as we are the ones initiating the investigation of their private doings.
I had originally thought that if this ever happened to me in an interview, I’d decline, and leave if I had to. But this is genius.
I often compare Facebook to a large and impersonal shopping mall, with a lot of noise and the cloying stink of Cinnabon and cheap candles getting deep into your sinuses. Others use other metaphors, and ex-Facebooker Dave Morin is probably influenced by the value of his stock portfolio when he recently compared Facebook to a town:
Jessica Roy, Former Facebook Social Design Evangelist Says Facebook Model Is ‘Self-Serving, Egocentric’ via Betabeat
The discussion started with this prompt:
[by Dave Morin, the founder of Path] Facebook has built the cities, they’ve built the town squares, and they’re more of a general social network, he said. Path, on the other hand, is more like the home, as if adding each friend is filling out your dinner table.
On Twitter, Mike Karnjanaprakorn–CEO and cofounder of Skillshare–added, “If Facebook built the cities and Path is building the houses, Skillshare is building the schools.”
Mr. Miller started a discussion about this approach to design on Branch, and Mr. Morin and Mr. Karnjanaprakorn both weighed in.
“The Internet is like the Wild Wild West. But over time, you can see certain infrastructures being put in place. AOL created the roads, Facebook created the Town Square, PayPal created the bank, Twitter created the newspaper, Path is creating the home, and Skillshare is creating the school,” said Mr. Karnjanaprakorn. “We still need a sheriff.”
Mr. Morin agreed. “I think Mike hit the metaphor on the head,” he said.
But then another voice chimed in. It was the voice of Mr. Fisher, whose former title at Facebook was “Social Design Evangelist.”
“On the contrary, Facebook is NOT a town square,” he wrote. “In fact there’s little sense of community at all. It’s centered on individuals and their friends which is a very self-serving, egocentric model that does little to help people actually work together, as would a town.”
Da-yum. That’s definitely a burn coming from someone a source says wrote Facebook’s social design guidelines.
It appears Mr. Fisher is building his own version of a town square, which is probably why he doesn’t like the idea of Facebook overtaking that moniker very much. His LinkedIn lists him as the founder of Townsquared, Inc., a ”social platform that helps organizations grow niche communities.”
I am interested to learn more about Townsquared, certainly, but this seems to be nothing more than entrepreneurs caught up in metaphorical chinese checkers; all of them are trying to jump over Facebook to some better, warmer, more productive social matrix, at least conceptually.
The mall metaphor works for me because I dislike malls and spend as little time in them as possible. But malls somehow seem to be filled with people, looking in the windows, checking each other out, trying on cheap shoes, and eating bad pizza. Or maybe the suburban sprawl metaphor (from 2009):
New Spatialism: Reclaiming Social Space In Web Media via stoweboyd.com
Using an analogy from city planning and architecture, we need a rethinking of the basics: something like the New Urbanism movement, that tried to reclaim shared urban space in a way that matches human needs, and moved away from gigantic and dehumanizing cityscapes of the mid and late twentieth century, where garbage trucks seemed more at home than a teenage girl walking a dog.
So, we need a New Spatialism movement, to rethink web media and reclaim the social space that is supposed to be central to so-called social media. Some web media may just remain what it is, like an industrial district at the edge of town. But at least some parts of web media should be reconceptualized, and reconstructed to get back to human scale. Just as New Urbanism is about organizing streets, sidewalks, and plazas to support the growth of social capital, New Spatialism would help us channel interactions on line to increase sociality, and thereby increase the growth of social capital.
New Spatialism is based on the idea that our primary motivations for being online are extra-market drivers: we are not online for money, principally. We have created the web to happen to ourselves: to shape a new culture and build a better, more resilient world. And we need better media tools than we have at present, to make that a reality.
As usual, when the techies start talking about online shared space, they lose their way because that haven’t actually studied urbanism, nor anthropology.
The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks.
I understand why Facebook is doing this, but at this rate, they are heading towards oblivion. The closed wall approach to the Internet is doomed to failure. Need more proof? Try Prodigy, AOL, et al.
As for me, screw Facebook. My community is on Tumblr and Twitter and other places I love like Ex.fm. So no, Facebook, I will not post links on my wall to the content on my blog. I will simply not use Facebook.
Facebook doesn’t care what we think, want, or need. It’s become like the old pre-breakup AT&T, a tone deaf monopoly.
The verdict is rolling in. Commentator after commentator is ruling Google+ a failed experiment.
Google+ is dead. At worst, in the coming months, it will literally fade away to nothing or exist as Internet plankton. At best,…
Some key points to think about: Google was trying to build a social network, they weren’t trying to solve a problem, fix a need, or take people into a better future. They were simply trying to cash in on something they saw as popular. (Well, that and they decided to become the self-appointed Identity Police of the internet, “Show us your papers!”.)
Doing what your competitors are doing is not a business strategy. Doing what’s popular is not a business strategy. Having a good idea is not a business strategy.
Especially when you are trying to control people with your strategy. Google+ was never about what was good for us, it was always about what was good for Google. They were trying to create a captive audience. Right now we can use their services. Or not. They would like to remove that option. But so would Apple and Facebook. And Microsoft has always been clear about it’s intentions.
Your business strategy is to give people power, not reduce their amount of power. Do that and you’ll win.