Facebook is the butter of the new media world
I just got told I could write about butter and it would be interesting. So, here it goes:
Butter is bullshit. I actually love butter, we all do (unless of course
you’re opting for low-fat soy butter with reduced salt and Real
Original Flavour™ in which case do us all a favour and switch to
celery, your friends will judge you less – yes they do judge you,
obviously they also lie). Without butter, sure, your brownies might
suffer a little, but we can figure out ways around that. Butter is,
ultimately, fairly dispensable. And you have to churn through a bunch
of other good stuff (milk, cream) or steer it away from cheese to get
it to happen. I love butter, but it is still a crock, and I’m calling
Facebook is the butter of the new media world. Blogs lit up last week
with rumours Microsoft was going to acquire the part of Yahoo! it most
wanted (search) and in the same move try to take Facebook for $15 – $20
billion. Seems people are done questioning the value of sixty million
pairs of eyeballs, even in the absence of a sustainable business model.
For those that haven’t done their homework, that’s why the web crashed
the first time around, nobody knew how to make any money.
Facebook then made headlines again when it stopped Google’s Friend
Connect from being able to communicate with its system, saying it cared
more about users privacy. This is a half truth, Facebook does care
about users privacy, but only because it sees that data as valuable
and doesn’t want anyone else to have it. I saw a flurry of comments
about this in the past few days,all centering around a notion of
somebody owning user data. What I found so disheartening is nobody
volunteered a simple, solitary truth: the users own their data, and
services like Facebook, MySpace, Bebo etc. get to hold it for us while
we find somewhere better to put it. And bet your ass the second we find
somewhere better to put it we will.
Personally I don’t care, I’ve already talked about why marketing at
(yes I mean “at”, not “to”, and they are different though neither is
very good) people on Facebook is not a winning strategy (in more than
one place), though that isn’t a very sexy story, not for the industry
hype machine anyway.
Let’s not kid ourselves, Facebook wants to be the Microsoft of the web.
People are running around saying that game is already over, and it is
in fact Google. Wrong. Google is not the Microsoft of the web, and it
never will be. It won’t be because its DNA doesn’t allow it to be.
Contrast this with Facebook. To quote one of my favourite writers,
“Sillicon Valley’s poster-child of a better future is playing the
strategic games if a dead industrial past.” Facebook is taking the
technology and the principles that allowed it to exist in the first
place and folding them in on themselves, technology and principles born
out of a distaste for business as usual as it existed in the 20th
century. The end result is not game changing, the end result is sand
through an ever tightening grip. Personally I think the one reason
traditional media flocked so whole-heartedly to the space is they
recognise the same soulless void that has driven their own businesses
for decades; I like to call it the Warren Beatty manoeuvre, one hand
playing with a girl’s necklace, smiling and chatting while the other
creeps up her skirt.
There’s never been more information more widely available, and trying
to control what people do with it is the digital equivalent of telling
rain which way to fall in a thunderstorm. Facebook eschewed a bunch of
good stuff to get to where it is, using ingredients that were good for
a whole lot of other, better, products and services. Now they’re
desperately trying to maintain hold on user data, under a daft
assumption it was somehow theirs to play with in the first place.
Even Rome fell people, look for history to repeat itself.