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Facebook's 'Closed Silos' Pose Challenges To Open Web 77

An anonymous reader writes: The growing trend of closed content silos -- publishing platforms that require a login in order to view the content is a step away from a more open web. Back in December of last year, Facebook launched its own in-app browser, which is basically a web-view that loads links you tap on using the Facebook app. Although in-app browsers may be convenient for some, such features are primarily designed to keep users inside of the application for a longer duration, which translates to more advertising exposure (and, thus, more money). This kind of feature can be challenging to the goal of keeping the web open, not only because the feature overrides the end user's default mobile browser, but also because it keeps users in a closed ecosystem (versus exploring the web). Additionally, the Instant Articles feature doubles down on siloed content by working with publishers to make articles available nearly instantly within the app, loading much faster than they would through a mobile browser. This sounds good, and it is convenient. But it also sets up a path for monetizing content that would otherwise be viewable outside of the closed silo, and, because you're using the app to browse the web inside this silo, there are privacy concerns. Unlike using a browser such as Firefox or Chrome, which has a private browsing option, a user of Facebook's in-app browser does not have the same privacy control. It's no secret that Facebook has been trying to create what appears to be a closed version of the internet. The social juggernaut's Free Basics initiative, for instance, offers users with free access to select websites. Facebook gets to be the gatekeeper of the platform. This is something that didn't sit well with some privacy advocates in India, who played an instrumental role in banning Facebook's initiative in the country. Facebook is not just a social networking website where people go to talk with their friends and family, Facebook has become a mammoth platform that offers the ability to upload videos (mimic YouTube), and send money to your friends (mimic PayPal) among other things. It is almost scary to see the rate at which Facebook is expanding and trying to absorb everything that comes in its way.
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Facebook's 'Closed Silos' Pose Challenges To Open Web

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Remember what happened when that one guy asked to see what they had on him? []

    They have a scary amount of information on you. And they want more.

  • Is that there is always some powerful company/being at the top, trying to control it all for himself. We had IBM, Microsoft, now Google and FB trying to be your one-stop shop for all things tech
    • by Sax Russell 5449D29A ( 4449961 ) <> on Wednesday March 16, 2016 @02:34PM (#51709707)

      This type of thinking comes from business people's side: instead of creating individual products from ground-up, create and control a whole platform. When you control the platform people do business on, you own the market. Google didn't create their own proprietary OS because its markets would've been too narrow; instead they created a platform that extends over numerous manufacturers. When the manufacturer's and app developers succeed, Google succeeds. When the manufacturer's and app developers fail, Google doesn't. It's a one-sided win position they got themselves in.

      Amazon isn't selling everything themselves, instead they got a platform that allows sellers to join up and they get a slice of their profits, but don't fail themselves if the sellers go bankrupt. You can hardly be relevant in e-commerce unless you have some kind of presence there, and this is a bit worrying since they can bar a business from utilizing their platform.

      Private corporations are people when it suits them best. They get the benefits of being considered "people", but pretty much none of the downsides apply to them. Corporations enjoy freedom of speech, but they don't have to apply this fundamental right to their services. A news platform, like Facebook's, has no obligations to publish a story by a publisher if they don't want to. When all the readers are concentrated to that particular platform, it becomes increasingly difficult to exercise freedom of speech as a publisher. Facebook would effectively control the news we read.

      • by Alumoi ( 1321661 )

        Failbook already controls the news most of its products read.
        A typical product glances at the screen a couple of times per minute in order to read what shit its contacts have taken, what selfie was uploaded, what genital ... erm, genial, idea blew its mind and so on.
        THAT is news for most of failbook's products.

    • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2016 @07:38PM (#51711775) Journal
      I don't go to the supermarket just to buy bread and milk because the fuckers put it right at the back of the store. Similarly I don't go to FB to browse slashdot. Neither the supermarket or FB are stopping you from going elsewhere.
  • Facebook = AOL? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dAzED1 ( 33635 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2016 @01:32PM (#51709149) Journal
    The "too big to fail" stuff isn't just for banks anymore, I guess. But this didn't work out too well for AOL, in the end - people wised up. Maybe as society starts to care about privacy and security, they'll wise up about facebook too?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tnk1 ( 899206 )

      People really didn't wise up to AOL, AOL failed to bring customers a broadband experience to match what they had been able to provide under dialup. The iPhone walled garden shows that there is nothing dead about a walled garden model... as long as the experience matches the expectations of the users.

      Honestly, its good to be able to get out to the Internet, but a lot of people prefer the simplicity and functionality of a curated model. There are certainly "meta-dangers" to having a closed ecosystem, but th

    • Huge difference between AOL and FB. FB you can leave and still have internet. At AOL height their wasn't any better options to get on the internet. AOL died because they couldn't compete with the cable internet speed and price, period end of story. What IS FB? Its a free personal website without the costs IMO not an ISP
    • Maybe as society starts to care about privacy and security, they'll wise up about facebook too?

      As a society we do that rather well. The typical stuff you see shared on Facebook is no different from any conversation you'd overhead on a crowded train. The vast majority of the posts which aren't clickbait are in open discussion to people in general that the posters know, and in every system there's idiots who don't understand the implications of keeping sensitive information private. That's not Facebook's fault.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...when you install systemd.

  • ...of 'Duh' magazine.

    Was this news to anyone? My tech illiterate wife knows this.

  • If they haven't already, Facebook will start advising folks "The real web is scary for you and all our precious snowflakes! Stay here, behind the razor wire, where you're safe! Now; let's shop for a new car!!"
    • by Piata ( 927858 )
      I'd actually be okay with this. It channels all the useless, benign people into a nice padded room filled with ads, articles describing what latest thing they should be outraged over and polls that tell you how unique/great you are because of your tattoo choices.
      • It channels all the useless, benign people into a ...

        conveniently accessible voting bloc? That would be quite a lot of people.

  • In-app apps! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The modern app appers at Appbook know that only apps can app apps, which is why the Appbook app app lets you app apps while apping other apps!


  • Even huge companies like movie studios are now sending people to Facebook. The last trailer I saw even assumed you knew the Facebook logo and only showed "[Facebook logo]/name-of-the-movie" for the URL.

  • by MrKrillls ( 3858631 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2016 @01:53PM (#51709391)
    As they've become more aggressive about locking one in and monetizing it, I've found it less pleasant and less useful. Log in too often and they fill your "feed" with more and more crap. Frequently I want to get back to a friend's earlier post, but it has become so buried under a mountain of faux posts of others' likes and others' comments that I can't get back to posts I want to refer to. It irks me no end that FB keeps trying to stuff new faux content into my "feed" (I hate that word) to glue me endlessly to FB. The paradoxical result is that I use FB less and less and am on the verge of killing my account.
    • Unfollow people who post too much crap.
      • I have a few of those, people who churn out endless near identical posts, and I've unfriended them or unfollowed them. But what my concern is, is that FB reposts what everyone "likes" as if it were a new post, anytime their algorithms determine that I might spend too little time on FB. The same happens with friends' comments; those comments are heisted and turned into more "content", obscuring the actual posts my friends make. All I want to read are those original postings, but FB won't be happy til we
        • I follow a few active groups on subjects I like (scorpions, bromeliads, tillandsias, orchids) and I see mostly photos of stuff I like. Posts that I want to reread I save (grey down arrow to the right of the post, save). Also hiding posts you don't like is supposed to train the algorithm. OTOH Flipboard has a similar issue, I keep seeing that "Bedbug" post because people keep flipping it.
          • Wow John. Great help! Thank you! I never knew either of those things. I had no idea there was any way to influence the algorithm.
  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2016 @01:57PM (#51709423) Homepage

    Basically, it's the Internet for people not skilled enough to set up a web page, a blog, a mass email system, or find games for themselves.

    It will always attract the laziest and stupidest users - which will always outnumber the intelligent and privacy valuing users.

    But it will never take over completely, and the rest of the web will continue to exist for everyone that isn't that lazy and foolish.

    If by some miracle, Facebook dies, an equivalent will rise up to serve the same lazy, unskilled user base.

  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2016 @01:58PM (#51709431)

    ... It is almost scary to see the rate at which Facebook is expanding and trying to absorb everything that comes in its way. ...

    Like systemd? ;)

  • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2016 @02:00PM (#51709469)

    So you can see your walled garden in 360 degrees.

  • anyone who thinks facebook is the internet is ... well you know what I'm saying..." got a like..."
  • ..or AOL, if anyone still remembers that one.

  • I don't see a problem with Facebook offering a limited set of services for free. Nobody is forced to use those services. Will people be encouraged to? Sure. Will they be only allowed to use Facebook forever until the end of time? No. Other businesses may try this model, or someone might want access to the wider Internet and purchase access.

    I don't see the "evil" here, I don't see how anyone is being harmed. Facebook built a product and they want people to use it.

  • "Privacy advocates in India"

    OK, be honest:

    The only people in India posting about not giving limited free Internet access to the poor are those who already have Internet access. We didn't see the opposite side of the argument because it turns out poor people with no Internet access have a hard time posting things on the Internet.

    Amazing, isn't it?

    Gotta keep that caste system alive!

    • Of course, one way to preserve a caste system is to build data silos and restrict the lower castes from accessing anything not in said silos.

      • Of course, one way to preserve a caste system is to build data silos and restrict the lower castes from accessing anything not in said silos.

        Given that they have prevented Facebook giving the poort devices, and they have prevented Facebook from giving the poor limited Internet access (which they could pay to expand by using a paid Internet plan, rather than the free one, and for which the device itself, which Facebook was gifting them, is the largest outlay required for participation)....

        Aren't the lower castes *already* restricted from accessing anything not in those silos ... and also anything in those silos ... by not having any freaking acce

  • A few years back I came to the simple conclusion that this is basically the rebirth of online services at a new level. Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon (to an extent) - they're all just bascially ye olde mid-90ies Compuserve or T-Online. We've come full circle, with the net-neutrality debate and all that.
    So far that I've even considered dropping out as a web professional alltogether.

    Once the meta-level is up to speed and the geeks and nerds start using namecoin for DNS and some avantgarde mesh networking it will be another cicle of 20-30 years before it all evens out agian.

    I say whatever. We'll live.
    First world luxury problems.

  • While they may have built the in-app browser to keep people using Facebook app (as if people were stopping because they linked out to Chrome or whatever) it was always very annoying to view links without it. Whole new app opens in a new context. With it opening first in the in-app browser it flows way more smoothly and makes it easier to quickly assess whether I want to wait for it to load or just go back to Facebook. This change was very beneficial for a social media platform that has a large percentag
    • You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

      Two downsides are that a company that has a clear interest in influencing your visiting patterns and content choices now has both total control of your browsing (potentially since they wrote the browser) and total knowledge of your browsing (potentially, since they wrote the browser and could be sending your browsing history through a sidechannel to their own servers where they can analyse it).

      This is a monopoly situation and will probably lead to abuse of monop

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        In the free internet that Facebook wanted to offer, you simply closed the app. That's all it was, an app. You still had normal 'net. You just only had limited connectivity while in that app and any data that was served through that app was served for free. To get out of it, you just closed the app and used a different one, a regular browser, or whatever. It didn't limit anything. It didn't prevent anything. It just gave data, to select sites, for free. In theory, anyone could get into that list of select si

  • I canceled my facebook account years ago due to the sheer idiocy of it all. Recently, I found myself in a situation where I needed to get a hold of someone from my past. It came down to google for a picture of a "generic white male" and starting a facebook account under a pseudonym. Poking around I was reminded why I left. I don't need to define to anyone here what "the idiocy of facebook" means, except to say that, paradoxically, the lack of substance has increased. I found who I was looking up and so look
  • This really only affects those who care enough to pay attention. 99% of the users on FB will install the app and be happy as can be since they're getting a "better" experience. If they don't mind, who really cares? Sure FB can control what they see, but their friends already do that, just as they do in real life. It's the whole discussion about how fake FB life is again, just a different context.

    It's not as if it's hard to avoid the walled garden, use the mobile site via a browser with protections built
  • my kids say facebook is for old people. they and their friends don't use it.

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.