Tuesday, May 20, 2008

face off Facebook

Today I revisited my Facebook dilemma. Should I? Should we...? Yes I am back at that again. It happens regularly that I have to challenge my thinking about FaceBook. You see I am one of the few resistors of Facebook and have been from the start. Not that I don't acknowledge its enormous influence as a social media, but I have quietly declined many invitations to join and neither am I convinced its a place marketers should be exposing their brands to unless it has very specific social and market relevance. I prefer to eavesdrop on my son's FaceBook activities to make sure I am "in touch with the medium" and watch from the sidelines as marketers dive into this arena. I'm probably a lone voice here, because there's a rush currently by South African marketers to set up Facebook profiles for their products and services. I'm finding it hard to understand why people would willingly spend precious time interacting with sites that are there to promote goods and services (even if it isn't obvious at first) and not fulfill the function of a social network in its purist intent. I really believe in the savvy Internet user who deplores any commercial intervention in these specific social online activities, unless of course it really has a very specific relevance to the interaction (..you can be sure I'm searching for case studies here). FaceBook is a fascinating global phenomenon with around 60 million members and is one of the fastest-growing and best-known sites on the Internet today. Of course the real big news this week is Facebook's decision to block Google. and here I turn to Steve O'Hear on ZNet an expert on Social Media, who summarises it all very intelligently; "When Google announced its ‘Friend Connect’ product to deliver social networking features to the ‘long tail’ of the Web, the option “to see, invite, and interact with… existing friends” from competing social networks was bound to raise a few eyebrows. Not least from Facebook, whose inclusion was made possible via the site’s public API not through a formal partnership.The response: Facebook blocks Google access claiming privacy concerns, while the search giant says it’s done nothing wrong as users have to explicitly opt-in by being re-directed to Facebook’s own log-in screen, and can unlink their Google Friend Connect and Facebook accounts at any time." He adds, "the data portability land grab of course many suspect that this has very little do to with privacy, and instead what we’re seeing is an attempted data portability land grab by Facebook, MySpace and Google, in which users will be given the ability to share their social graphs elsewhere on the Web from where the data originates, so long as the primary source can remain the sole controller of that data — a kind of social control panel for the Web OS. In this scenario, data can never really leave the originating site - not in the strictest sense as that would imply it doesn't have to remain on the original host’s servers - but, a limited subset of that data can be synced with other sites."
Land grab, corporate battle, whatever you want to call it, its all part of the the quest of the monoliths for digital domination. So while the virtual powerhouses battle it out, I mere mortal digital immigrant will sit on the sidelines and figure out whether to join those 60 million odd users and marketers or face off?

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