Some thoughts on Facebook
Feb 17, 2012 - 05 p.m.

I've never been the biggest fan of Facebook. I have an account, and I check in on it occasionally, but it has never really rubbed me the right way. Why that was the case wasn't clear to me until recently.

Facebook reminds me of AOL. When internet penetration was really ramping up, but before broadband was widely available, AOL was the way that almost everyone got online. AOL wasn't (isn't?) just internet access, it was an entire monolithic internet user experience. For most people, AOL email, AOL chatrooms, AOL instant messaging and AOL content was the internet, and the AOL internet was not very compatible with the rest of the internet. This is what Facebook reminds me of.

Facebook seems to be aiming for the same all encompassing online experience. Facebook can feasibly replace your email, twitter, instant messager, blog, photo sharing service and any online games you might play. There have also been changes recently to try and make facebook your source for news. I suppose all of this is convenient for the user, but I don't like having my entire online presence tied up with one company. Not only does it give them a lot of power, but it nudges you into using whatever implementation of a given technology they are pushing, with no mind to quality. I don't mind facebook keeping track of my friends comings and goings, but when it comes to disseminating information, I prefer twitter. I'd rather maintain my own blog and use a third party instant messaging client because while those service are on facebook, other services do them better.

When I look at the online presences of prominent technology people, they also seem to be spread across different services, picking and choosing the ones that they like, and unlike facebook, I can still check them out without strapping into the service they use. While part of the reason people are so locked into facebook is the lower technological bar for entry, I think as people become more savvy and other services become easier, facebook will start to lose some traction.

Now, AOL is still around, but in an extremely hobbled form. Will the same thing happen to facebook? It doesn't seem super likely, but at the peak of AOL, it didn't seem very likely they were going very far either. AOL had the misfortune of being struck down by broadband, and maybe facebook will have it's own broadband come and strike it down. Perhaps everyone will just leave. Tough to say.