Thursday, May 26, 2011

Connecting people

The stats behind the rise and rise of Facebook are impressive and very good for wowing disbelievers at conferences and meetings. 600 million people have Facebook accounts and they spend an average of 700 billion minutes a month updating their profiles, chatting and sharing. It is now the default community for virtually the whole world (China is a noteable exception). The opposition has simply been blown out of the water and they march on unchallenged.

Since so many people are already in there, that's where discussions tend to happen and we increasingly combine work and leisure activities and contacts. It's easy to get swept away by the fun of Facebook and forget that they are after all a company who are making a lot of money from our identities. By getting virtually every website on the net to include like buttons after every article (2.5 million sites did this in the first year of the service) Facebook can gather astounding amounts of information about our lives, preferences, interests, friends and family and this information is extremely interesting for advertisers. Few people even bother to go through ther security settings on Facebook making it even easier to gather data. Furthermore, the problem that they keep tweaking the security settings without fully explaining what's going on makes it very hard for all but the most dedicated to make the necessary changes.

Can anyone challenge the might of Facebook any time soon? Can we have a more secure alternative that is run on more altruistic lines? Enter Altly, an embryo community that at present is trying to pitch the concept of a free alternative to FB. They aren't ready to launch yet but they invite you to reserve your identity in advance. Their blog provides the rationale behind the concept (The need for an alternative to Facebook).where they sum up their principles as follows:
  • Privacy is ULTIMATELY important.  
  • We should know EXACTLY who can see what information about us.  
  • Control of our information should be in OUR hands, and it should be EXTREMELY easy for us to control it.  
  • WE should choose what information is stored, how long it is kept, and who it is available to.  
  • Our digital life, our personal information is EXTREMELY valuable, and each of us should not only control who has access to it, but BENEFIT from it.  
  • Advertisers should be part of our community, but should NOT have an unfair advantage over us. 
  • All of our data should be OURS, and no one else’s.  If we choose to leave our social network, we should be able to easily take ALL of our data with us, and COMPLETELY delete all data if we choose.   
  • If other social networks should be developed, they should be able to interoperate with one another.
I agree with all the above and wish them luck but they've got a massive challenge in front of them.

Just for a little extra reading, have a look at a New York Times article on Facebook's plans for media sharing, Facebook is developing ways to share media.

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