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Facebook opens up amidst net neutrality row - BBC News

An interesting bit of news to start the new session of our social computing course (COMP650) rolling: Facebook is now allowing a few more sites to be available from its initiative. I find there to be so many things that are wrong with this initiative, ranging from net neutrality to privacy incursions, and a voracious, exploitative business model, that I don't know where to begin. I'm glad it is letting a few more vetted sites in, but this is not the altruistic initiative it is made out to be. A remarkable consequence of this is that, in surveys taken in countries 'benefiting' from, it appears that (impossibly) more people use Facebook than use the Internet.

Facebook's single-minded ethics-free focus on building its network graph, no matter the consequences, to cultivate and harvest members has been remarkably consistent from its inception. It is an extremely effective business model but its consequences for the open Internet as a whole have been profoundly negative, not to mention deeply distasteful. It's a model that rampantly exploits Metcalfe's Law (or, more accurately, Reed's Law) without shame.


  • Kamar Wilks May 9, 2015 - 11:36am

    I know it sounds mind boggling that in this day age we have people who actually think when they log onto Facebook they are not using the internet. Facebook has become a way of life and for most not having an active account would instantly plunge you into the deep abyss.

    That being said Facebook has done a magnificent job of being seen as its own entity non-reliant on anything to reach its users. In doing so this company has the ability to monopolize the market. Businesses and organizations will be forced to use Facebook if they intend on reaching the maximum possible audience.

    Ethically I have a problem when any one organization, company or political party has full control of anything. Full control always means less choice for us.

  • Jon Dron May 11, 2015 - 12:24pm

    Yes, that monopolization is the worry! The problem is that Facebook's members are not its clients, but its shareholders, and it is ruthless and highly effective in exploiting its deep and powerful knowledge of what drives social networking. Very clever, but very harmful. I am deeply saddened by the way that, as a result of its market share and almost single-handedly, Facebook has squashed open standards (e.g. OpenSocial, OpenID, even RSS). It's not just a result of its own aggressive use of proprietary and closed alternatives, but the fact that, as a result, it has forced other sites of its nature to become equally closed in order to compete: it has become the acceptable norm to lock people in. 

  • Minhaz Topaz July 28, 2015 - 3:09pm

    Personal reflection: I used hi5 long ago to keep in touch with friends from back home. I moved to Canada after high school and had to find a better way to keep in touch with my friends who were moving out all over the world. Social sites comes in very handy for that. Hi5 was a great way to stay in touch as it mainly worked as a method of communication across the world just like yahoo and msn messengers. 

    social apps have evolved greatly since then. Facebook is a great combination of content and communication and everything in between. While looking thru the wiki posts you shared I found Andrew Odlyzko's 'Content is not king' to be very interesting. I would argue this is a personal view but I know people who solely uses facebook for communication. Others are more in it for the content both from known and unknown sources. 

    About the article about how people think facebook is internet is also very true. Just like some people uses computers now a days just for youtube and facebook, nothing else seems to exist in their online world other than funny videos and friend's posts. Telecom companies were also using this to give people access to certain social apps on their smartphone and not all of internet and claiming that as a feature and charging people. I am sure some some people still think when they click on the internet explorer icon on their desktop that it the internet. Watch this:

    Remember the time Skype came up with a phone which was a revolution. Though it didn't sell well but it was a great idea as lot of people were buying into the idea of skype. Just like that facebook has also taken over onternet. We have seen the facebook phone whose main purpose was to keep you online in facebook 24/7. if you go to you will find a lot of people asking questions, googling things, reading news, believing fake news and sharing user generated content that are absurd. 

    Facebook has done a great job changing the world into this. There data business is the biggest in the world but even the people that knows this can not stop using facebook. No other company has such grasp on userbase that other social apps are incapable of reaching that. The world runs on money and ethics has to room in it. Facebook and any other large internet companies are no different. 

  • Jon Dron July 28, 2015 - 4:33pm

    Yes - there's no doubt that they do their job ruthlessly well! But, just because the world needs money does not make money an end (or a justification) in itself. We have laws to prevent its precedence over ethics, albeit unevenly spread, not to mention other powerful drivers like social capital and altruism.

    Facebook is a bit different, I think. Though plenty of other companies have found ways to lock people in with foundational technologies (e.g. Microsoft, Apple, IBM) and some have found ways to offer services that can't be beat and that dominate through little more than having desirable products that smaller companies cannot match (e.g. Google, Amazon, Netflix), all of those could relatively easily be replaced with a competitor's products. One might have invested a lot in content, infrastructure, etc so it would not be easy, but it could be done. That's one of the great things about the Internet as a substrate. Facebook was the first to truly get how to create lock-in with social networks on an open Internet, doing what Bell only managed in a bygone era by controlling the wires. On the surface it looks like it has a lot of direct competitors - and there are indeed niches to be carved - but they have no more chance of competing than other US phone companies at the start of the 20th Century could compete with Bell, without government intervention. We don't have the legal checks and balances to figure out how to control such things yet, but it would be interesting to think about what they might look like!