Like buttons, Facebookers the new AOLers


For someone who doesn't use it any more, he sure talks about them Facebooks a lot!

That like button thing

I jumped off the Facebook ship a couple of months ago and haven't looked back, but I still read news reports about it if only to indulge in a little schadenfreude. From

Sunday, Facebook rolled out a change in the functionality of the Facebook "Like" button on websites across the Internet, essentially giving it the same basic functionality as the "Share" button. The only difference is that pushing the Like button doesn’t open up a new window or give you any way to edit what you’re posting to your wall.

For someone who's already started to forget about Facebook and how it operates, this didn't seem like so much of a big deal upon cursory inspection. Of course, one need only see the effects of such a change to see its far more insidious than the official PR would have you believe.

[T]he process removes a person’s ability to edit or personalize what they want posted to their wall.

Facebook knows exactly what they’re doing. This is a classic “bait ‘n switch” move that was well planned and executed perfectly all the way down to the exact day that it was launched.

No kidding.

That AOL thing

matthew.w.simpson left a comment on about Gawker's latest site redesign that includes Facebook like links, but not Twitter or any other social network.

Says a lot about the audience that make Gawker sites popular… Facebook users are getting the reputation that AOL users had in the nineties.

Aw snap! The test will come when we start to see Facebook Groups appearing in advertising instead of a generic EARLs. Oh, wait, they already do.

The future thing

It's fairly obvious to me as an outside observer now that Facebook is doing its best to remain as sticky and relevant to people as possible, at least until their IPO so the founders can cash in. As long as they make small, incremental changes they'll be able to get away with anything. What I can't stop thinking about is, what can they get away with next?

I've talked about my issues with Google lately, but sometimes it helps to put their efforts into perspective. I feel threatened by Google predominantly for legal reasons; they perpetuate the idea that your data should be in the cloud with online services and that they'll Do No Evil, but that's not to say law enforcement armed with increasingly draconian legislation couldn't forcibly compel them to part with information. It wouldn't matter if Google is angelic and vehemently opposes such action, they're not above the law. This is the same issue I have with IPv6, though I'd better not mention that again or I'll have people ironically accusing me of "not researching enough". Go figure ;)

My fear from Facebook is their more incidious nature. Whereas Google has repeatedly demonstrated their inability to foster any kind of meaningful social network system outside Brasil that could also take advantage of people's browsing habits (what a horrifying prospect), Facebook's efforts are focused like a laser beam. They really are scary in their own right, and I want nothing to do with them.

Ultimately what will save us from them isn't people writing whinging posts like this, or more "open" networks like Diaspora, but the fickle nature of internet users. Facebook will be stale and boring eventually, and people will move away from it to the next Flavour of The Day.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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