What if Facebook becomes the new web? This could become a reality for many users worldwide, given their unbelievable growth of 600.000 new users every day. Facebook already has 140Mln registered users. If they continue to grow at this rate they could easily get 50% of all the Internet users worldwide to the Facebook platform within a few years.
I find that to be a scary thought. Not just because it’s never good for a user if there is only one choice. It scares me that Facebook has access to incredible amounts of private information and that most users do not seem to realize or care about that. Facebook quickly tries to monopolize our on-line relations and interactions. Which would be ok if their business model was to provide users with value. But it isn’t. Their business model is based upon advertisement. Basically it means that Facebook will exploit everything they know about you, about your friends, and the interactions you have with them in a commercial model.
If all of your interactions are happening thought Facebook, imagine what they know about you. Demographics, political views, sexual behavior, who are your friends (including people you don’t really know that might have some seriously demented behavior online), your online (sometimes private) interactions, photo’s of you and your friends (tagged), business connections, movie and game taste, e-mail, search. The list is endless.
This scenario could easily turn into an Orwellian nightmare. I don;t think any company should have access to such large amounts of information. The Facebook business model, Free Advertisement based, might turn into a smoking addiction. We end up realizing it is bad for us, but by that time we are so addicted to it that it will be hard to quit. If all your data, your interactions are taking place in this one platform, if this one platform becomes your web reality, how easy would it be to leave it behind and start again?
We are all used to e-commerce sites providing us with ‘social’ feedback to help us improve our shopping experience. Amazon set a standard when they introduced the “users that bought this book, also bought…” trick. It is an excellent way to boost sales, mainly because it adds value to the users shopping experience. But turn the experience around for a second. Would you still find it OK if Facebook reported to ALL of your friends that you have just bought the “Complete Illustrated Kamasutra” edition on Amazon (formally known as project Beacon in Facebook)? And because you bought that book, you, your family and your friends may en up getting all kinds of “Kamasutra-like” advertisement. Right next to the lovely baby pictures you posted when your child was born. All of a sudden, the information that was private to you (your shopping behavior) becomes a privacy nightmare in your Facebook experience.
I feel that mainstream users need to be educated about this. A free advertisement based social networking business model could lead to commercial exploitation of you, your family, your friends, your data, and your interactions. Users should be aware of this and take a conscious decision on whether or not they mind or not. I doubt there is any thought about this when a user signs up. And that could lead to unexpected and potentially harmful situations.
Facebook may become a next ‘smoking’ addiction. It’s really cool when you sign up, but once you realise the potential harm, it is nearly impossible to quit.