Thursday, October 28, 2021

Elizabeth Warren's idea of breaking up Facebook may require friendship networks to be less like walled gardens.

Senator Elizabeth Warren says, "it is time to break up Facebook."

She also said; like when Ma Bell was broken up, we still need to be able to communicate with each other across the different platforms. Telephones can still connect.

I would guess this could mean doing away with having to friend someone to see their postings. Content would need to be accessible across a multitude of platforms.

We have already had that; in the early days of the internet when content was just out there on the open web. It was pretty seamless and accessible. One could navigate and interact with pretty much anything they wanted. It's the World Wide Web. Content hosted on lots of servers, run by lots of different organizations.

Part of the reason why Facebook has gotten so dominant is when friendship circles became more important. They became somewhat like walled gardens and people's friends pretty much all ended up on Facebook.

Other platforms are out there, but they don't have the "momentum" of friendship links to get going, big time. They don't have as much of what's called "the network effect."

The network effect is a feedback loop. Outside of Facebook, it's hard to get the ball rolling again.

Opening up, across the entire web, could mean less privacy; in some respects. Having things more accessible on the open web. Having content more searchable to everyone.

There is more to it that just this, however.

Facebook is very convenient. User friendly. It's kind of like "The McDonalds of social networking."

Before Facebook, it took a little more work, digging and thinking to make connections. As I remember, connections weren't quite as prolific.

To some extent, Facebook has set the bar higher in how much interaction we expect each day. A higher bar, or greater addiction?

I remember the mid 1990s when I first set up my own website; long before Facebook existed. Even back then, I thought that mostly just my friends would look at it, but it was nice to have a place to make my writing and photography accessible. I wouldn't have to buy stamps and mail it to people. One could just put their web address on a business card and hand it out.

That seemed like enough, back then. I'd already been in something called the Mail (Postal) Art Network. I'd circulated in many face to face gatherings, here in Bellingham. I'd written scores of letters to the editor of publications and to a lot of politicians.

Soon after I started my site, I found that the server it was hosted on, was keeping statistics on pageviews. I was getting views from all over the world!

That made me happy. Hundreds of views at least. Not big time fame and fortune, but more than just the friends I could meet and hand cards to. It was beyond just my own contacts. What was it?

Search engine traffic. Yes, topics being searched. My site was coming up in searches.

I still have that site, but the traffic has slowed to a crawl. It's buried in information overload as the web has grown and Facebook has, admittedly, taken much of the oxygen out of the room.

I've remained on Facebook for that reason. It's where the pageviews and comments seem to be, these days.

Some of this dynamic has to do with how algorithms direct traffic. Maybe today's search engines don't rate my website as high as they once did.

Facebook algorithms come under question as well. What type of content gets boosted? Do the feedback loops just reinforce and reward people's worse tendencies to go for the sensational over what's thoughtful?

I remember the days before Google. That was back when there were quite a few competing search engines; speaking of different platforms.

There was Altavista, Lycos and so forth. All searching the same web so they were pretty interchangeable. A seamless system across lots of platforms; like Elizabeth Warren is wishing for. Non monopolies.

Being able to connect with any telephone across a multitude of phone companies can work, but we have this in something called email and one has to say, it's not nirvana. The accessibility of email has created a nightmare of spam, rendering that invention nearly worthless.

Again, algorithms to the rescue. To sort out the relevant from what we each consider to be the junk.

Figuring out how to best manage all our dump trucks of information is something society is trying to figure out at this stage in the evolution of the information age.

No comments: