I have been wondering about the way Facebook, Skype and many other social networking or communication tools enforce a 2- way handshake in order for me to start communicating with friends. I assume the reason for it is to ensure that a user is not being harassed by people he or she doesn’t know. But it feels like the wrong solution to a non-problem to me.
A personal example sort of illustrates the point. When trying out the possibilities of Facebook as a new user, I started adding some friends so that I could start keeping track/communicating with them. Turns out that the first friend I tried was away on vacation. And I was waiting for his reply that it was “OK” to be friends. That was somewhat disappointing during my first impression of Facebook. And it feels really weird that, in order to communicate with a friend, I first need his permission.
Why not turn it around. You can directly be friends with anyone you want (like with e-mail). Spamming or harassment can then be halted in at least 3 ways. Firstly, if you are harassed by someone you don’t want as a friend, simply block him or her out. Secondly, Facebook can do all sorts of (privacy respecting) checks in the background to see if a user is spamming other users. And thirdly, if you don’t want to do it this way, then you can always set the “always ask” option that seems to be the default now.
This would make Facebook and other social tools much more personalised and friends based to me. Techquilashots wrote some nice idea’s down to make Facebook more “friend-friendly”. There are probably loads of good ideas floating around. Are there good reasons why it cannot be implemented this way? Am I missing a point? Do you have other solutions? I’m interested to hear what you think about it.