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The Era of Facebook Is an Anomaly 260

Posted by Soulskill
from the let's-get-back-to-business-as-usual dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Speaking to The Verge, author and Microsoft Researcher Danah Boyd put words to a feeling I've had about Facebook and other social networking sites for a while, now: 'The era of Facebook is an anomaly.' She continues, 'The idea of everybody going to one site is just weird. Give me one other part of history where everybody shows up to the same social space. Fragmentation is a more natural state of being. Is your social dynamic interest-driven or is it friendship-driven? Are you going there because there's this place where other folks are really into anime, or is this the place you're going because it's where your pals from school are hanging out? That first [question] is a driving function.' Personally, I hope this idea continues to propagate — it's always seemed odd that our social network identities are locked into certain websites. Imagine being a Comcast customer and being unable to email somebody using Time Warner, or a T-Mobile subscriber who can't call somebody who's on Verizon. Why do we allow this with our social networks?"
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The Era of Facebook Is an Anomaly

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  • Laughable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 15, 2014 @10:08PM (#46496247)

    "None ever used this thing that wasn't available before, therefore (loads of rationalizations)"

    • Re:Laughable (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @12:29AM (#46496789) Journal

      The basic premise, that it is an anomaly for us to come together into a common social space, is so ridiculous that I have to wonder what her agenda is for making such a blatantly false claim.

      People came together from their community to the marketplace to socialize. People came together at church every single Sunday.

      Beyond the reaches of the individual community, people of almost every faith used to come together for pilgrimage, allowing them to socialize with other members of their faith from far away places and become more worldly and less ignorant. This was considered a moral duty.

      The point isn't to go where people who are your friends are, or to go to places where people who are into the same hobbies. The point is to grow as a human being by leaving your comfort zone.

      The real anomaly is in the walls that keep us from knowing each other. It keeps us weak, powerless and under control.

      • Re: (Score:5, Interesting)

        by v(*_*)vvvv (233078) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @01:15AM (#46496919)

        > by leaving your comfort zone.

        How is socializing with other members of your faith leaving your comfort zone? Church IS your comfort zone. So is the marketplace where you gather with FRIENDS.

        >The real anomaly is in the walls that keep us from knowing each other.

        Like the one that surrounds facebook, and the walls within facebook that prevent certain interactions between its members.

      • by jafac (1449)

        as in meatspace, language is still a powerful barrier. Though at least there are tools to try to address that.

      • Re:Laughable (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dingen (958134) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @03:27AM (#46497187)

        The basic premise, that it is an anomaly for us to come together into a common social space, is so ridiculous that I have to wonder what her agenda is for making such a blatantly false claim.

        People came together from their community to the marketplace to socialize. People came together at church every single Sunday.

        You don't get it. The point is that the entire world didn't come together at the same marketplace, or the same church building, or live in the same city for that matter. It's unnatural for humans to all be in the same spot to socialize, we rather split up in groups of manageable size. That's the premise of the author. Now whether that's true or false remains to be seen, but at least understand the point the article is trying to make.

        • We've had "specialized" online fora (eg: /.) for a long time; the appeal of FB is that it crosses those boundaries to connect with new friends (and reconnect with old ones) in a single, convenient venue. I think a more pertinent question would be: Why has FB kept growing while MySpace died on the vine (arguably, killed by FB)? What is FB doing differently?

          • by Immerman (2627577) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @10:44AM (#46498507)

            Two words: Network effects.

            Facebook succeeds not because it's anything special, but because a critical mass of the population uses it, and each person can independently decide the shape of their "community". If I meet someone new in the real world, and want to keep up with what's going on in their life, odds are we're both on Facebook. Nobody else offers that. A new competitor could start that was 100x better than Facebook in every technological way, but until they reached a critical mass of users nobody would care.

            • Yeah, after a certain point, the network effect takes over. That doesn't answer how Facebook got to be big enough for network effect to dominate. Or maybe network effect started at the beginning, because it was school-by-school.

              In fact, MySpace is only about 6 months newer, and I think was dominant for a while. It seems like maybe Facebook grew from people becoming dissatisfied with MySpace. I don't think we have seen a similar service growing considerably from dissatisfied Facebook users.

              We used to have so

          • That's easy.

            Facebook tricked people into thinking of it as a highly private platform, somewhere safe to use your real name and share pictures with your mom.

            People don't remember that, for the most part, but that really was the reason for their success... the only novel thing they did.

      • Re:Laughable (Score:5, Insightful)

        by denzacar (181829) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @06:42AM (#46497579) Journal

        Also, whoever wrote that does not realize that Facebook is not a site or social space but a service.

        So that argument could just as well be used against a telephone, postal service, roads... with equal relevance and correctness.

      • by Joce640k (829181) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @07:20AM (#46497647) Homepage

        The basic premise, that it is an anomaly for us to come together into a common social space, is so ridiculous

        Is Facebook a "single space? I thought it had groups.

        Facebook is just a medium of communication - like talking using a mouth. Everybody used mouths before and nobody thought it was weird.

        I have to wonder what her agenda is for making such a blatantly false claim.

        She's just having a massive cognitive failure because nobody's using a Microsoft space and her job is to justify that.

        It's a bit like Zune: It was a perfectly good piece of hardware so why did nobody want it? Why did they think Steve Ballmer "squirting" his Zune at people was wrong? It sounded like fun to her...

        Does not compute.

    • Re:Laughable (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TWX (665546) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @01:29AM (#46496951)
      It's probably more comparable to the telephone's introduction and subsequent ubiquity than it is to existing Internet services. And like the phone system and its eventual finding-of-monopoly and breakup, plus the introduction of new technology (cell phones) that fragmented it, I expect that some day Facebook will be ruled a monopoly and either broken up or forced to turn itself, to an extent, into a backend that allows other services to integrate into it seamlessly, like how MCI and later cell phone companies integrate into the legacy of Ma Bell.
    • No, he is right, the rise of _not the first_ social network which wanted your email password to suck up your contact list was an anomaly.

      He does not likely admit that another anomaly is the disfunctional windows OS, the unusable as storage ipod, the locked down iphones and androids, secure boot.

      Not that I expect consumers to make informed choices since they are badly influenced by advertising and doctored stats.

  • Lack of options. And no, G+ doesn't cut it.
    • Re:It's called (Score:4, Interesting)

      by danomatika (1977210) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @10:13PM (#46496273)

      A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.

      • by rev0lt (1950662)
        A social network is only relevant if it is "relevant" (aka if it appeases your social needs). Usually this requires a clear market winner. That's how we got CD vs DAT, VHS vs BetaMax and BluRay vs HD-DVD.
      • by fractoid (1076465)
        A friend of mine recently re-joined Facebook after a year or two of not using it. He found that despite our best efforts, he was still enough out of the loop that he was missing a heap of social events.

        tl;dr Not playing only works if your friends don't use Facebook as a primary communication medium.
  • God damn internet is anomaly. Facebook won't last long anyways.
    • by rev0lt (1950662)
      That is a long living anomaly, no?
  • by bigdavex (155746) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @10:14PM (#46496287)

    Phone system?

    • by klevin (11545)

      In this argument, the phone system is analogous to the Internet, as a whole. When you're connected to the phone system, you can contact anyone else who's on the phone system, regardless of their local provider. Granted, you may have to may some sort of toll, if they don't use the same provider, or are geographically distant (depending on your provider). However, they're still accessible.

      • by MightyYar (622222) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @10:23PM (#46496305)

        No, the phone system is a network of compatible and standardized endpoints. No one really cares how they are connected, just like no one would care if Facebook didn't use the internet. I think the phone system is a pretty good example.

      • No, actually, its like AT&T has 98% of the market share, and someone is whining, "why doesn't everyone start up their own independent telephone network space". Like I want to use the yellow phone to talk to people about baking, and the green phone for talking about movies. Not gonna happen.
        • In many places local phone service was provided by small providers, and AT&T primarily linked them together. All these small providers used the same protocols and standards so anyone could make a phone call to anyone else.

  • Simplicity (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @10:31PM (#46496351) Homepage Journal

    Right or wrong, the reason a large site like Facebook stays large as most people dont want to have to go different places to do what amounts to the same thing.

    Would you rather go to 10 friends house each week for 30 minutes each, or everyone hang out at one for the afternoon? Most people would not choose all the running around.

    • by epyT-R (613989)

      Actually, a more apt analogy would include the stipulation that a government agent would be there watching you all for the afternoon, recording all of your conversations, taking pictures/video, and storing them for possible future criminal cases involving one or more of you. In that case, I'd pick the 30 minutes option, or just find somewhere else to be for the afternoon.

    • Yeah, the researcher doesn't get it at all. The so called "interest group" is friends and family. It's one spot I can go to to find out what's up. I certainly wouldn't go there to satisfy an anime addiction but she needs to realize there are different kinds of groups and they don't all fit into her very limited definition of what a group is. It's sad that I get this and I'm not a fb fan and I almost never post.

    • Right or wrong, the reason a large site like Facebook stays large as most people dont want to have to go different places to do what amounts to the same thing.

      Would you rather go to 10 friends house each week for 30 minutes each, or everyone hang out at one for the afternoon? Most people would not choose all the running around.

      Here's my pet theory at the moment: Facebook stays big because it got a 'critical mass' user base very early and is keeping it through lack of inter-operability with other social networks. If that description sounds a bit like the Microsoft's PC operating system monopoly of yesteryear, that's because it is. This phenomenon also goes by another name: 'vendor lock'. People on Facebook don't have much choice other than to stay on Facebook if they want to enjoy the full spectrum options for interacting with the

  • It appears that MS disapproves of monopolies and lock-in in proprietary systems when there not the ones doing it. Worlds tiniest violin etc. etc.
  • Srsly. Don't get all exercised about it. It'll pass.

    I'm actually kinda surprised FB aren't blanketing the nation with CD-ROMs.

    • I think it's about time they do that. My AOL coasters ain't in any shape anymore to be presentable, I need replacements!

      • yes! cool idea.

        bring back the coasters and start a new service called silverbook !

        yeah, it has 'book' in it, so you can assume the US based corp attorneys will be all over that. "you used OUR word. we own that. stop it!". sigh.

    • To post a comment to an article on The Huffington Post, you need to create a Facebook account, "verify" the account by receiving a code in a text message sent to a unique mobile phone number on a supported carrier, and link your Facebook account to your account on The Huffington Post.
  • don't worry, as long as a "phone" is involved no obstruction may be made by the carrier.
    Failing to follow that rule will bankrupt Verison, Comcast, or AT&T in a day.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      don't worry, as long as a "phone" is involved no obstruction may be made by the carrier.

      The FCC's new plan is to move phone service to VoIP. The phone will be over the internet and not the other way around. They won't obstruct anything within your sip tunnel. Woo hooo.

  • Society naturally gravitates towards monopolies.

    Why: A default answer is easy, because it requires no decision making.

    Fragmentation has never been the natural state of anything just like "nature abhors a vacuum".

    This is why your electric company, gas company, phone company, cable company are one monopolies.

    Also think of E-Bay (what is alternative?), Amazon.com (what is alternative?), or how companies standardize on Microsoft Office and Windows and how schools standardize around iPads.

    I am more offended
    • by rev0lt (1950662)

      This is why your electric company, gas company, phone company, cable company are one monopolies.

      Not where I live. You have a free market - at least an illusion of one.

      Also think of E-Bay (what is alternative?), Amazon.com (what is alternative?)

      Both Amazon & Ebay are not the top companies on their respective fields (TaoBao is bigger than both combined). Amazon's alternative is to skip the marketplace and buy on your local retailer (if available). If not, buy on a clone (Jumia, Lazada, Linio, etc). E-Bay alternatives start offline (newspapers).

  • by Jmstuckman (561420) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @10:44PM (#46496439) Journal

    Imagine being a subscriber of AOL, PC-Link, Compuserve, Prodigy, Delphi, or GEnie, and not being able to send messages to customers of other services.

    It has already happened once, and we are repeating it.

  • Facebook is the same anomaly as AOL was -- critical mass and everyone was there that most people wanted to talk to / find. And MySpace was the same animal for a while.

  • ... Microsoft Researcher Danah Boyd put words to a feeling
    "The idea of everybody going to one site is just weird. Give me one other part of history where everybody shows up to the same social space. Fragmentation is a more natural state of being....

    I wonder if she believes that the same should hold true for operating systems.

  • by cstacy (534252) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @10:52PM (#46496493)

    Facebook is not a place that everyone goes to. It is merely a hosting platform where people create zillions (of partially overlapping) "places" that they go to. Those millions of people are not on your Friends list. Facebook is millions of "places", not one. (However, George Takei's page is indeed the one single place in the world where everyone goes. But just for his stuff; nobody reads the comments.) As for Facebook "bombarding your news feed with useless information 24x7", ummm, that doesn't happen to me. Get a life?

    • Yes, Facebook is the hosting platform, just as email once existed within computers and didn't travel between them. We don't yet have a Social Media Transport Protocol that allows peering between providers, but one day we will, and Facebook will follow AOL & CompuServe to the big walled garden in the sky. But, IMHO, that day is not in the near future.
  • by raymorris (2726007) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @10:56PM (#46496503)

    > Is your social dynamic interest-driven or is it friendship-driven? Are you going there because there's this place where other folks are really into anime, or is this the place you're going because it's where your pals from school are hanging out?

    I believe those different groups are called "social circles", and Facebook started supporting the concept in 2011, after Google+ made it central to their interface. Facebook is the MEDIUM for different grugroups to communicate. Facebook is not the group.

    Yes, it would be weird if every group gathered at the same physical location. It would not be weird if they all drove in cars to get there. Facebook isn't a physical space that crams everyone together. It's a method of getting to different groups a person belongs to.

  • Just logged in to FB for the first time in a month or two.

    It hasn't been chronological in a while. FB chooses whose posts I see at the top. Do they know me better than I do?

    FB has been over for quite a while. Teenagers do not want to be "FB friends" with their grandma.

    Last week, I received an invite to an event through email! Think of it. Email is just the same as FB, without inviting FB to be the middle-man (and NSA toady).

    Bless this week. My friends are finally realizing that FB is just a mi
    • Email is just the same as FB, without inviting FB to be the middle-man

      And that's the problem. Internet mail became less useful to people when spammers learned how to defeat Bayesian filters. Facebook has the resources to filter spam centrally and apply an effective death penalty [catb.org] to repeat offenders because making and verifying a new Facebook account means getting a new cell phone number.

      • by Dan541 (1032000)

        And that's the problem. Internet mail became less useful to people when spammers learned how to defeat Bayesian filters.

        I get more spam on Facebook than I ever had in email. Spam or not emails are also much easier to sort, organise and archive.

  • Imagine a world (Score:5, Insightful)

    by markdavis (642305) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @11:24PM (#46496627)

    >"author and Microsoft Researcher Danah Boyd [...] Imagine being a Comcast customer and being unable to email somebody using Time Warner, or a T-Mobile subscriber who can't call somebody who's on Verizon. Why do we allow this with our social networks?"

    That's a good question, Ms. "Microsoft researcher". Perhaps you can imagine a world where people can exchange documents freely and accurately without proprietary software like MS-Word. Or a world where consumers can put any OS they want on any computer without MS working with vendors to try and block them at the BIOS level. Or imagine people sharing calendar events easily without using MS's Exchange/Outlook formats. MS tried to hijack the web with IE (and did so successfully for years), and lied about their competitors to prevent diversity, locked out vendors from including Linux or other FOSS on machines, corrupted exported filters to make sure files to/from competitors would be partially broken. And the list goes on and on. Microsoft has been responsible for more lock-in and anti-compatibility than any other tech company, so perhaps I find it ironic that someone from Microsoft would ask us to imagine any kind of world of incompatibility.

  • by markhahn (122033) on Saturday March 15, 2014 @11:25PM (#46496629)

    lockin/networkeffect is so much easier a business model than competing based on excellence.

    it's an interesting question to ponder: at what level of clue do customers begin to care? does the mass market ever reach that level? implicitly, sure - a service won't succeed which can't interoperate at least well enough. but how many customers really understand the concept of protocol or API - understand it well enough to realize that it permits vendor-independent services?

    • it's an interesting question to ponder: at what level of clue do customers begin to care? does the mass market ever reach that level?

      How about, "when they start noticing it hurting them?" People didn't care about VB6 lock-in until Microsoft discontinued it. Then they began to distance themselves from Microsoft.

      People will start caring about Facebook when they realize all their photos are on there and everyone is switching to a different site.

  • It's called the network effect: the benefits of all going to one single place outweigh the costs. Same as for going to the supermarket, using MS Office, speaking the same language... Facebook is mainly a blank slate, you put on it what you want (subdivided between audiences if you want) and link with whomever you want. Plus I'm not sure what the cost of going to FB is ? I don't do social networking, but if I did, I'd go to Facebook. Why bother with anything else when it's free, everybody's there, and there

  • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @12:12AM (#46496759)

    Facebook isn't a social meeting place, it's a communications platform that also happens to let you hang a sign on the door that everyone can see.

    That's why they bought whatsapp, that's why they have all of the various tools to send and archive messages and to let you carve up the 'social space' of who you talk to.

    There are lots of shady things they are up to as well,

    >Why do we allow this with our social networks?"

    Whey do we let countries control their TLD's and phone exchanges and physical mail system? You don't have to use facebook to talk to anybody, there are other forms of communication. But if you want to use the facebook communication system then you have to use Facebook. If it becomes big enough, important enough and persistent enough then the government will step in to regulate it. But it's also possible facebook will go the way of the dodo bird in a couple of years when people get sick of all the stuff facebook ends up doing to try and make money.

  • Facebook has had an APi for a long time. You get info into and off Facebook from your own website. You just have to get past the terms and conditions screen. So it is like a phone. You can call it from other websites without a problem.
  • "The idea of everybody going to one site is just weird. Give me one other part of history where everybody shows up to the same social space." ...you still only "hang out" with the people you like (and not FB "like"), right? Cast aside the marketing ("liking" product X") and if you're using it to keep in touch with folks, then [PRESUMABLY] you care what they have to say.

    FB and other social networks are just generic spaces you turn into whatever you want...

    disclaimer - the only FB acct I have is fake, I use i

  • by rs79 (71822) <hostmaster@open-rsc.org> on Sunday March 16, 2014 @12:56AM (#46496869) Homepage

    "Give me one other part of history where everybody shows up to the same social space."

    Ok, late 80s, to mid 90s: usenet.

    "Fragmentation is a more natural state of being."

    Bears are natural. Also, botulotoxin and cyanide. Just because it's natural doesn't mean it's beneficial to you or good for you.

  • "Give me one other part of history where everybody shows up to the same social space."

    TV
    Radio
    Newspaper

    There's one mega site "everybody" uses, just like how there used to be one mega network "everybody" watched (NBC) and one mega network "everybody" listened to (NBC again under RCA), etc.

    The only thing different with social media is that since people are providing their own shit as content, they end up more closely tied to a particular site because of its content than they were with TV, radio, newspapers, ba

  • I don't go there, neither do some of my friends. A lot of people I know do, from all age ranges, but about half of the people I know also don't go there, again from all age ranges.
  • I know, right? I just went to Google to find another example, but nothing came up.

  • Social media simply haven't matured to the point where it makes sense to standardize interfaces and infrastructure. Since all of them are allowed to use proprietary interfaces, there is no chance of integration and people are forced to move to the same network to find each other. As soon as I'd be able to read your Facebook post on my Google+ and you'd be able to read and respond to my tweets from your Linkein account, that need goes away. Stuff like RSS was a nice try, but that only carries the content, no

  • The idea of everybody going to one site is just weird. Give me one other part of history where everybody shows up to the same social space."

    Apparently Dr. Boyd has never heard of the local pub in villages.

    Or the Thing in Scandinavian communities.

    I could grant that no social space in history has ever been on the scale of Facebook. But then, Facebook is not exactly a social space. It's like a convention, an aggregate of millions of tiny little local social spaces. An past research has shown that these social spaces are in fact , the same scale as those seen in real life - the the monkeysphere [wikipedia.org]

  • Counterexamples...

    Of course, if you aren't one of "The Beautiful People", you need not show up, as you're not getting in.

    Studio 54: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org]
    The Factory: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T... [wikipedia.org]
    Studio One : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org]
    Berghain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B... [wikipedia.org]
    Club Space: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org]
    The Roxy Theatre: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T... [wikipedia.org]
    The Womb: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W... [wikipedia.org]
    Zouk: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z... [wikipedia.org]
    The Blue Note: http://en.wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

  • >Give me one other part of history where everybody shows up to the same social space.

    How about Usenet? It was the social space of the Internet through the 90s.

    I really miss Usenet and the ability to go to one social space for all my hobbies. Now I have to hop on dozens of different forums. Rather than just fire up my Usenet client and go to rec.collecting.stamps, I end up going to 3 different web sites.

The ideal voice for radio may be defined as showing no substance, no sex, no owner, and a message of importance for every housewife. -- Harry V. Wade

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