Monday, August 27, 2007

The 12 Problems with Facebook

The problem with Facebook is not that its young CEO likes to ape Steve Jobs in appearance and behavior, right down to coining new-fangled terms such as ‘the social graph’ , or that he is being sued for having allegedly stolen someone else’s idea and code for Facebook, or that he likes having pretty women in key publicly viewed positions. That is all on the from the To Do list of every ambitious businessman.

The 12 problems that I have found with Facebook (I am sure there may be more) are applicable to all social networking sites in general.

1. SPAM
According to a research report from HP, 43% of Facebook messages are spam.

2. Dodgy Traffic Numbers
A recent Comscore study reported that 3 out of 10 U.S. Internet users delete cookies, which means that sites may be overestimating audiences by a factor as high as 2.5.

Both pieces of information have implications for advertisers who use cookie-based visitor counting and rates of social networking site usage.

3. User Information, Advertising and Privacy Concerns
Users post an amazing variety of personal information on social networking online and I am not talking about photos from last Saturday’s drunken orgy.

Some believe Facebook started SELLING userdata to third parties when it launched the hyped “Facebook Development Platform.”

Facebook, always under pressure to deliver revenues from that huge user base, started with putting Flyers/Boxed ads on the left hand corner of user pages.

The worse is yet to come. The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook is working on a new Google Adsense-Style advertising system that lets marketers target users with ad s based on the vast variety of data a user posts online.

The Journal writes,
Eventually, it hopes to refine the system to allow it to predict what products and services users might be interested in even before they have specifically mentioned an area.

4. Social networking sites as giant advertising plays
Google executives talk about Monetizable Traffic when they discuss buying a web startup. My take on this is that it is one thing building a giant classified site, like Craigslist, and plastering it with ads – users are there to do business.

In case of sites like Facebook, which serve as giant Ibiza-style meeting places, using user’s personal information to earn ad money is like giving boot to Users’ Trust.

Matt Haughey, who founded Metafilter, suggests doing away with ads for regular users.

I wonder if Social Networking sites will be generous enough – there are huge server bills to pay and it doesn’t help that to view any data, you have to become a member of the walled garden.

5. User information and lock in
Joshua Schachter famously said that a user must be able to delete/remove his/her content from a web 2.0 site at all times.

That is not the case with any social networking site and Facebook is sadly no exception.

Every item you post, every personal item you share, gets locked into that Bastille of Information and you can do nothing about it.

If Facebook were an open source platform, you could pull your content out and use it elsewhere.

At least, that was one of the promises of the web 2.0, wasn’t it?

That is one reason why Dave Winer supports Widgets.

Recently Start Page site Netvibes introduced the Facebook widget which uses can use to display their latest Facebook data on their Netvibes Start Page.

Dave writes,
Facebook could easily be the place where the dam breaks. It's attracting so many users, who may at some point realize that they want control of the data that's locked up inside Facebook. Then vendors who have been on the right side of this issue will be the heroes.


Hopefully, Web 3.0 will herald a truly open Social Web Platfrom where Your Platform is just a widget on mine


6. Facebook is not for business
I have been writing about Facecbook for some time now but think you would rather take the word of A-lister Scott Carp who writes that Facebook is not for business.

…business and professional needs are NOT the same as personal needs. I have no need to “poke” my professional colleagues or specify that our working relationship began when we “hooked up.” I don’t need to know about my professional colleagues what gender they are interested in mating with, or what they are looking for in a relationship, or what their favorite TV shows are...

When you post a message on a Facebook wall, it often becomes a public thing.
Do you want your business deals to be as open?

I take it that Facebook is a heaven-sent for event planners but for most others jobs, Facebook is just another cog towards the goal of closing a deal.

We can’t say for sure what tools young people of today will using in their workplaces tomorrow – will they be poking their friends to get the job done?

Life is not that simple.
In the words of the great comedian Rodeny Dangerfield,

“Don’t get out school, it is a Jungle out there.”

7. Facebook is a huge time waster
A recent report from the SurfControl, an internet filtering company, calculates that if an employee in an Australian Business spends an hour each day on Facebook – busy poking, trawling, bird watching and other assorted activities, it costs the employer $6200 a year and there are around 800,000 work.

In other words, Facebook costs Australian Businesses $5 billion a year


8. The Facebook Development Platform won’t make you rich

Kevin Barenblat, co-creator of SpotDJ has pointed out that till date, 100,000+ programmers have signed up as Facebook Platform Developers, who have created only 3000 Facebook apps so far.

- 70% of Facebook users already have applications on their page.

- Nine of the top 12 Facebook apps are owned by a Slide (4), RockYou (4), and Facebook (1).

- Only 42 of over 3000 apps (1.4%) have over 1M users, and only 150 (5%) have over 100,000 users.

In other words, the going will be tough.

9. Friends are not easy to make – online or offline
Social Network sites promise that anyone can make as many friends as he can. All you got to do is request to be a friend and more than often even if I don’t know you, I will click OK just to ward you off.

I will also click OK if I am a shameless self-promoter who likes to show off his number of friends.

Owen Thomas writes about this breed of Self Promoters:
(the self promoters are) spamming the less-important people who have volunteered to be your "friends" -- people who are really just fans, to whom you have no meaningful relationship.

Meg Pickard writes that Facebook is a confused social space – a ‘one-size-fits-all kind’ of tool.
There are too many different facets of personality being exposed through social openness. So much so, in fact, that it gets a bit difficult to manage. For example, at present on Facebook, I have (among others) the following listed as “Friends”:
* My husband
* Several people I’ve known since I was 11
* College friends I haven’t talked to in 15 years
* My boss
* A couple of people from university I’d lost touch with
* Several people I know from t’internet, but haven’t met / don’t actually know
* A few people on a mailing list I belong to
* A handful of family members
* A few people who work for me
* At least one ex boyfriend
* People who I’ve seen around the office but never exchanged more than words of greeting with
10. Facebook Groups are superficial things
Meg Pickard thinks friendships starts with groups, but Facebook users can’t group their friends.

Facebook doesn’t give users the ability to create ‘personal-invite only groups’, to manage group permissions and so on.

11. The Coming Backlash of the young crowd
The entrance of an older crowd and business types means that Facebook is no longer the cool college campus where the young hang out and do stuff.

The Facebook development platform, the throng of wasted A-listers and VC types place are reducing Facebook to an Open Campus where everyday is an ad-supported College Fest day, Recruitment Day, or what have you, and where every nook and cranny is plastered with ads.

For college kids, that is not all cool.

12. Facebook can make you fat
Health Researchers now say that that if one of us becomes fat, the chances that our friends would do so too rise by 57 percent, with the risk increasing to 71 percent in the case of same sex friendships.

They explain:
“What appears to be happening is that a person becoming obese most likely causes a change of norms about what counts as an appropriate body size. People come to think that it is okay to be bigger since those around them are bigger, and this sensibility spreads”

Rather than waiting for the Facebook Datacenter to go down, stop trolling and poking.
Go outside and get some Sun on your back.

Update 28/0/2007
Kara Swisher of the Wall Street Journal has written on her blog about 4 problems with Facebook, in the light of the stratospheric valuations the startup is seeking. Among other things, she has written about why Facebook is not Google .


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7 Comments:

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At 12:31 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just signed up for facebook about a month ago. it is soo hard to find anyone. I can't look at pics to see if is indeed the person I am looking for. Big waste'o time for me.


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At 7:07 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have found another problem that is serious and that is the money they take through back door methodology. They use the quizes and friendly competition to enroll you in subscription services for 9.99 a month each. They do this behind your back with out specific permission. My phoen company, TMobile, credit back 40.00 for last month and told me they have a huge problem with facebook using a backdoor method of taking peoples money. DO NOT in any case accept any challenges on face book. You will lose money andf wont know till its way to late becuase , again they use backdoor methods

 
At 10:09 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have just found the Face Book has disabled my account with over 2800 friends and high level gaming applications. I lot of time is now wasted here making friends and building my games. Face Book seems to make rules arbitrarilly; and they still own my information, pics, and artwork even though I am disabled. This is not democratic but a dictator form of business like all business models. We need a new Face Book for the people of the world whereby someone unknown, and unresponsive, and acting by whims cannot destroy worldwide interactions and speech. This is a new source of impeding Free Speech and controlling the masses. Certainly, the "Powers that Be," whom own our information and Pics can also monitor them not only for selling to advertisers and making profit, but also to control and manipulate. What militaries are associated with Face Book. And who are Face Books "Friends." Forgive me, if the reader is not of a free country. But it seems that even Americans are losing freedoms, and the world bows down to oil and money. Now even our friends are controlled and who will regulate the monitors? signed FBS

 
At 10:58 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Facebook is garbage.

 
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At 2:48 PM , Anonymous NOOBLAN said...

3 Years later and things have only gotten worse. "Like" is everywhere now.

 

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