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Dealing With the Eventual Collapse of Social Networks 370

taskforce writes "There are good reasons to think web services like Facebook won't be around forever. If Facebook ever were to go down there would be potentially huge costs to its users. We can all take individual steps to protect our data and social network, but is there anything we can do to our economy to mitigate the costs of the failure of these services? The Red Rock looks at the role open source, open standards, consumer cooperatives, and enterprise reform can play. The author concludes that all is not lost, and that there's a lot we can do to reduce both the cost and frequency of failure." His suggestions are pretty radical: "The first is draw up an Open Data Bill and pass it into law. This would (where applicable) mandate the use of open standards by firms, and also mandate that all data held about a user is downloadable by that user, in an open standard. ... The second is to reform the corporate structure of larger companies to include some directors elected by consumers, rather than just shareholders. Not all the directors, like in the Cooperative Group, and not even a majority, but just a small portion of the board — say one third."
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Dealing With the Eventual Collapse of Social Networks

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  • by Nyder ( 754090 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @12:08AM (#39923843) Journal

    You should treat every website like it might not be around forever.

    If you store your photo's on facebook and don't have backups if it elsewhere, then you deserve what you get, if Facebook closes down.

    Nice idea to have an "Open Standard" to get our data, but I don't see this happening.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @12:18AM (#39923903)

      Photos? My photos are on my hard drive.
      I think what people are worried about is all the trinkets they've racked up in those social games.

      • by Pieroxy ( 222434 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @03:11AM (#39924731) Homepage

        Photos? My photos are on my hard drive.

        Your hard drive probably has a lifespan that is much much much shorter than facebook's. Good luck.

        • by Martian_Kyo ( 1161137 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @05:56AM (#39925437)
          It's a pity I can't replace my hard disk every few years and ghost the old data in matter of few hours.

          The difference is when the data is on MY hard disk it's under MY control, and I have the responsibility and power to replace it in time.

          If facebook/flicker or any site decides to just shut down tomorrow without warning, I don't have time to react.

          Hard drive's fail much more predictably then web sites.

          • No they don't. If you don't have an off-line, off-site backup of your data, you'll lose it. It's not a matter of "if", but of "when". Causes of loss can be software (bugs, viruses), hardware (drive failure), user (error or sabotage), environmental (fire, flood, over-current...). Only an off-line, off-site, backup protects you from all that.

          • Actually, I'd say it's just the opposite: web sites fail far more predictably than hard drives.

            You never know when a hard drive is going to fail. Could be fine today, toast tomorrow.

            AOL? Yahoo? Myspace? Who didn't see those coming?

            You can see the decline happening with web sites - they don't fail overnight. It's rare for a web site to be "here today, gone tomorrow" with no notice of the impending change. That happens all the time with hard drives.

        • Photos? My photos are on my hard drive.

          Your hard drive probably has a lifespan that is much much much shorter than facebook's. Good luck.

          Your privacy definitely has a much much much shorter lifespan on facebook than on your hard drive. Good luck.

        • by AngryDeuce ( 2205124 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @09:13AM (#39926523)

          When did people stop backing up shit locally they don't want to lose in a hard drive failure?

          Not backup as in upload to fucking Facebook, or host on a cloud storage site, but as in having another hard drive to put the shit on? Am I a relic of a long-forgotten age because I have an external HDD with a backup of all my digital photos and documents?

          I swear to Christ, it's like people have just gotten so fucking stupid since the advent of "the cloud", they want to find a way to shove it into every facet of their lives online whether it's practical or not. You can buy a 2TB Western Digital USB 3.0 external HDD for like $100, plenty big enough to hold every photo the average person has probably ever taken with room to spare.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @12:52AM (#39924149)

      If Facebook goes the way Myspace is heading, then the biggest risk is they'll sell your every private data to ChoicePoint, the NSA, and everyone else who fancies taking a look. They can't commercialize it now because people would leave the site, (at least not openly, but if those wiretap memos going around are true, secretly they already are). But once the company has no future and can openly piss off its users, then it becomes not problem selling that to every data mining company out there.

      • The end of Facebook? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Futurepower(R) ( 558542 ) <> on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @05:44AM (#39925389) Homepage
        Facebook's reputation with the mainstream media is rapidly getting worse. Facebook is getting a bad reputation partly because of articles like these:

        Worst company: Facebook was a semi-finalist in the April 2012 competition [] to be voted the worst company in the United States .

        Facebook follows its business rules? Not always. The April 7, 2012 Wall Street Journal story, Selling You on Facebook [], says:

        "Facebook requires apps [mobile phone software applications] to ask permission before accessing a user's personal details. However, a user's friends aren't notified if information about them is used by a friend's app. An examination of the apps' activities also suggests that Facebook occasionally isn't enforcing its own rules on data privacy."

        There's more like that in the article.

        Facebook tracks every web page you visit that has a Facebook button (using Javascript). For example, if you visit the Oregonian Newspaper web site [], Facebook tracks every story you visit, even if you don't click on the "Like" button. There are ways to prevent that (using Firefox [] with the NoScript [] add-on), but most people don't know about them.

        Companies pay people to click on Facebook "Like" buttons. The number of Facebook "Likes" doesn't give any indication of popularity.

        On December 9, 2011 it was necessary to click on a Facebook "Like" button to be allowed to see Fry's Electronics ads.

        Do 86,688 people (on April 9, 2012) really like Firestone Complete Auto Care [], or did the company offer something to be "liked"?

        A few problems with Facebook: Richard Stallman wrote a short list of things wrong with Facebook. []

        How much information does Facebook keep? Read the December 13, 2011 article, Twenty Something Asks Facebook For His File And Gets It - All 1,200 Pages [].

        What do people in other countries think? The May 14, 2010 article, Facebook is not your friend [] gives one idea.

        The June 15, 2011 article, The End of Facebook [], and the June 14, 2011 article, Is this the beginning of the end for Facebook? [] give others.

        Most people don't understand the problems that may occur. For example, consider the March 28, 2012 article, Teacher's aide says 'no access' to her Facebook; now legal battle with school [].

        This April 4, 2012 article would be funny if it weren't so sad: Woman arrested for assault based on Facebook photo []. Quotes:

        "Aston ... was charged ... based solely on a Facebook photo and a generic description offered to police by the victim's boyfriend."

        Defending herself required a "... court appearance and several thousand dollars in legal bills."

        Open source will prevail. E
        • A pay-based social network is not going to happen. Most people could care less about online ads (the kind facebook has at least, not spammy popups), but having to pull out their credit card would be a huge barrier, even if the cost was 3 cents per month. There are certainly plenty of people who would prefer this model, however, not enough to reach critical mass (think G+), and social networks are all about reaching that critical mass point.
    • by Nursie ( 632944 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @01:14AM (#39924263)

      I would go as far as to say that if there's anything you consider to be of value on facebook, then you're doing it wrong.

      It's just idle conversation and the odd photograph that you probably already have somewhere else, isn't it?

      • by jhoegl ( 638955 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @03:16AM (#39924761)
        Agreed, I believe Futurama said it best.
        "The plan is to pave over the area and get on with our lives" - Futurama, construction worker.
      • by Pieroxy ( 222434 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @03:17AM (#39924769) Homepage

        There is one thing I have on facebook and nowhere else: contacts.

        Of course, for family and friends I have their email address / phone number someplace else (namely Google) but there are quite a few "acquaintances" that I connect with exclusively on facebook / LinkedIn / etc.

        I'm aware I'm doing it wrong, but these are not people I'd email to in a regular fashion or at all. They are old coworkers, friends of friends I've seen once or twice, etc. Sometimes I go and see what they have to say on facebook to get an update of how they are doing. And sometimes we "connect" for good due to some shared interest / goal.

        These people are in touch with me exclusively on facebook. If the whole thing was to go down I could not connect easily with half of the 'friends' I have now on facebook.

  • Friend-face (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Orne ( 144925 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @12:09AM (#39923847) Homepage

    Somehow Facebook is too big to fail, but MySpace can flitter off into the night without people caring? When we finally approach the end of the natural life of Facebook, people will transition into whatever the next big social media gathering site will be, little by little until Site A is empty and Site B is the new hot stuff. It's not going to happen overnight, no "rush to the exit", and definitely no need to legislate a "fix".

    • Re:Friend-face (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mlts ( 1038732 ) * on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @12:23AM (#39923939)

      Purely IMHO of course, but what does FB have that I would go screaming in the night if I lost?

      Pictures? Got backups of those.

      Meeting times and events? People can find another place for that. iCloud is free and has a good calendar function.

      Meeting forums? Plenty of places for that, be it G+, Web forums, Yahoo groups, or maybe even having one's own website.

      Watching what friends do on a site that isn't horrid on the eyeballs? G+ is stiff competition, and worst case, there is always firing up a website and a blog.

      Random comments? Twitter is there.

      Private messages? Yahoo chat, AIM, ICQ, and other chats are still out there. Barring that, there is always E-mail.

      FB apps? I don't play them, so am not a judge, but I'm sure some large website, somewhere would happily create an API in order for a company like Zynga to slurp up dollars in micropayments.

      What FB provides is just one single contact point. If it vanished tomorrow, people would just go back to what they used in the past, or perhaps just patronize Google+, which offers almost everything that FB does, coupled with a music store, storage space, E-mail, and apps.

      • Re:Friend-face (Score:4, Informative)

        by solanum ( 80810 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @12:29AM (#39923987)

        Indeed, and I have to say, I can't really see that the economic effect would be that great either (impact on any 2.0 bubble aside). If Facebook disappeared tomorrow, just how would that have any large effect on the economy? Even Zynga isn't totally relying on Facebook and nobody has shops that only operate through Facebook either to the best of my knowledge.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TubeSteak ( 669689 )

          Indeed, and I have to say, I can't really see that the economic effect would be that great either (impact on any 2.0 bubble aside). If Facebook disappeared tomorrow, just how would that have any large effect on the economy?

          Facebook wouldn't disappear and neither would your data.
          Their assets (your information) would get sold to someone, who would data mine it, and then advertise to you in ways that Facebook couldn't without losing the public trust.

          • Re:Friend-face (Score:5, Insightful)

            by azalin ( 67640 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @02:50AM (#39924649)
            This would be an interesting point for a privacy discussion and maybe some regulation. What is your data, who owns it and what can be done with it? Is it just another asset of the company that can be sold or shared at will (at least from the legal standpoint) or is it part of a "contract" (sort of) between user and company needed to provide a service. What happens if the company is sold, goes bankrupt or decides it no longer cares about playing nice?
            In some countries (ie Europe especially Germany) the regulations are rather clear about most points though probably not all. The user owns his data and can demand a copy of all personal data and may request it to be deleted as well. There are a few exceptions and some room for improvement but basically this is the way I'd like it it to happen.
            I provide temporary access to my data and ad viewing eyeballs in exchange for a service. If you don't provide this service anymore (or if I cease to want it) you loose any right to use it. Of course there may be some necessary delays (ie. data won't be deleted until all open payments are settled).

            Access to data is a right "rented" with the provision of service. If the service is no longer provided or needed, any right to access or keep the data should be void.
      • How about history?
      • What do any social sites have? Who puts valuable data there? If it vanished tomorrow the worst that would happen is that people get more stuff done at work.

      • What Facebook brings is all of those different things in one place, with one list of contacts.

        Since Facebook hit 'critical mass' it has been a useful tool for keeping in touch with people.
        Amusingly it is easier to keep up with people during house-moves, changes of phones through facebook than even through email...

        Having that "one place" to do all of it is why I use it at least.
        For specifics things I have the tools you mention.

      • by Pieroxy ( 222434 )

        What FB provides is just one single contact point.

        Exactly the value of facebook which you dismissed right out in your comment. The value of facebook is not in the chatrooms or in the pictures. It's in the contacts.

        Tell me this:

        If facebook (and other social networking sites such as G+, LinkedIn, etc.) would vanish overnight without warning, would you have a way of keeping in touch with EVERY last one of your contacts on facebook?

        I'm not asking if you'd like to keep in touch with them, I'm asking if you COULD.

        That is - for me - the only thing I'd lose. Again

    • Re:Friend-face (Score:5, Informative)

      by samkass ( 174571 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @12:35AM (#39924031) Homepage Journal

      Besides, Facebook has allowed you to download all your data in XML format for years from the bottom of the "account settings" window. Google later added that feature to Google+ as well. So it's not really a technology problem... of the people who actually care about any of that data, you're never going to get more than a tiny fraction of the people to actually download it and back it up properly.

    • by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @01:06AM (#39924229) Journal

      When you're talking about "users" are you talking about the content producers / eyeballs - the little people whose social networks are expressed in Facebook and who've invested thousands of hours in Farmville and Mafia Wars? Or are they and their social networks "the products", and "the users" are the advertisers who sell things to those people? I can see how the advertisers might lose lots of money if Facebook content producers get bored or annoyed and go somewhere else, or do something else.

      But for one of the little people, I don't see how there's a "potentially huge cost" to them if they get bored and leave. Ideally, they'd like to back up the contact information for their actual friends, and for some of their other Facebook friends, and back up their photographs, but if they've gotten bored and left that's an indication that the value they're losing is near-zero. If they get mad at an obnoxious Facebook policy and leave, there's some positive value that they're losing that's balanced by the negative that's chasing them out, but it's still their call. There's a "potentially huge cost" to Facebook if their content producers and eyeballs wander off, because they've got less product to sell to advertisers, but that's a problem for Zuck and the stockholders, not for the people who left.

    • Facebook is too big to fail

      that was said about myspace before fb came along

      nobody can predict the next big thing with any certainty, let alone the effects it will have on existing technologies and platforms

      the only thing for certain is that there will always be a next big thing
      the only question is when it comes along

  • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

    don't upload everything to a "service" without having a backup, if it really means anything to you...

    • by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @12:54AM (#39924163) Journal

      The problem with your suggestion is that often the data you want to preserve was created or discovered within the service, not externally. For instance, your Facebook friends lists, and the messages you've exchanged with people on Facebook, were probably created directly in Facebook, not exported from your home computer, unlike your photographs which you probably created and then uploaded. But even then, the captions for your photographs may well have been created directly in Facebook or Flickr, while your PC or phone thinks of them only as IMG00345.jpg.

      So you need some way to back up your data from services that may not have been built for it. With Gmail, you can use IMAP to copy it down to your PC - does Facebook have anything better than screen captures available?

      • Facebook allows you to download your data. I posted somewhere else on this story that I can't comment as to how comprehensive that export might be (I tried it once out of interest, some months ago), but there is something there.

  • Mod Points (Score:5, Funny)

    by AndrewStephens ( 815287 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @12:10AM (#39923853) Homepage

    Sometimes I wish Slashdot would let me download my mod points in an open format and use them on another web site. I have some Facebook posts in mind that need down-modding.

  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @12:10AM (#39923855)
    The value of most data decays over time and almost everything becomes worthless eventually when the owners die. So if Facebook and the like goes away, very little will be lost. There are literally only one or two books per century that are worth preserving.
    • Re:Data decays (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Fallingcow ( 213461 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @12:29AM (#39923979) Homepage

      You've got a point, but that's a gross exaggeration. What did the 20th century give us? Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Bertrand Russell, Richard Feynman, Vonnegut... between them, dozens of books worth preserving, and that's just a tiny selection of major 20th century authors. It might be argued that the number will diminish over time (Feynman's physics lectures might not always be so great in light of newer work, after all, and god knows not all of Vonnegut's work is worth a damn) but it'll take a very long time for it to reach two.

      Hell, there are centuries BCE that I think most scholars would say have more than two books worth preserving.

    • And that's how we end up with the Bible, the Torah and the Koran.

      Thanks to idiots like you a thousand years ago.

      In another thousand years the people may be worshipping Harry Potter. I weep for the future.

  • by kiwimate ( 458274 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @12:14AM (#39923881) Journal

    Before the onslaught of a slew of "and nothing was lost" comments inspired by a mention only of social networks and Facebook, the Forbes article (as you can tell if you hover over it) is talking about any behemoth and specifically singles out Google and Facebook. The article title is actually "Here's Why Google and Facebook Might Completely Disappear in the Next 5 Years".

    It's also not talking about a total disappearance:

    there are good reasons to think both might be gone completely in 5 â" 8 years. Not bankrupt gone, but MySpace gone.

    So not quite the desolation that people are thinking. But if we're worried, why not look at what happened with Alta Vista or Geocities and go from there...

    • I think one major difference is that the the three you mentioned, and many of the others of popular cum changed and/or gone away sites is that Google and hopefully (for their sake) Facebook have the foresight to be constantly adapting to what's needed and wanted in the user marketplace. If Google lags and someone else comes along and manages to get more direct marketable eyeballs than Google does, then yeah, they'll change and/or shrivel up as the ad dollars migrate. But how many people do they have working
    • by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @01:02AM (#39924213)

      Facebook, maybe (but no, not really).

      Google? Anyone claiming they can be replaced in 5 years just has NO idea how much work it really was to get to where they are today. The fact that it's trivially simple to search for something on Google and find decent results in 100ms does NOT MEAN it's a trivially simple thing to implement. It means they have spent an insane amount of time and money to make it trivially simple to use.

      There are a LOT of search engines that failed over the years... but why? Because Google was so much better there was no reason to use them. Until someone makes something better, I don't think they are in any danger of irrelevance...

    • by Cabriel ( 803429 )

      Well, I can't speak for the end of Alta Vista (I did prefer it over Yahoo for a very long time), but as for GeoCities, they permitted me the option of downloading everything I had on their server in a convenient, single .zip file. If that is the precedent, I won't mind at all when other services, like FB, hit their natural end-of-life. This, of course, precludes the case where they come to a violent end, such as by servers melting down or being confiscated by authorities or whatever one could imagine.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @12:20AM (#39923917)

    Anything I put on a social network, I consider it "lost". I treat it like conversation. Growing up, there was never any expectation that my conversations would be archived. I treat social networks like that. Yep, Slashdot postings too. Once in a while I'll get some +5 that I think is worth saving, but even most of those aren't worth it. Even the several blogs or sites I've had over the years don't hold up very well over time.

    Let's face it. Most of us aren't Shakespeare. Most of us have pretty boring lives. How do you know if you *do* have an interesting life? Somebody else starts a page for you. So that solves the problem right there. Just do nothing on social networks, and let somebody without a life do it for you.

    Now, all of this is a separate issue from being able to "back down" your data. I have to admit I haven't done that with my Flickr pix. It's my one weakness. I really need to at least download the pix and burn them all one one CD. I have the raw data, but the selection of what was "post worthy" and the comments and metadata are the real problem. I'll take care of it one day, or my unremarkable life will end before somebody does it for me.

    And now, to drive the point home, I'll post this AC instead of using my Karma +2 bonus account that I've had for 10 years.

    • Anything I put on a social network, I consider it "lost". I treat it like conversation. Growing up, there was never any expectation that my conversations would be archived. I treat social networks like that.

      And that's a mistake. Because they are being archived, but not by you and not for your purposes but by a corporation for corporate purposes and by anybody who's interested in recording your profile over time. It's creepy how easy Facebook and any other social media site make it to build a profile on you.

      I predict that soon it will be an everyday occurrence to hear of people who have been impersonated based on Facebook data, and occasionally for more than just simple theft.

      • Chill out, corporations were collecting warehouses full of personal information from mail order catalogues and other sources long before my grandparents were born, stealing an identity from someone's letter box for fun and profit is nothing new either.
  • Generation Gap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by conner_bw ( 120497 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @12:20AM (#39923919) Journal

    Facebook, or any social network, will naturally deteriorate with the next generation gap.

    No teenager or young adult wants to be in the same social space as their parents.

    Right now it's a novelty and it's generally accepted that "Parents just don't understand" (the internet.)

    What lies ahead is surely not our teenagers hanging out in the same social space as the people who code this for a living today.

    That's just lame.

    • Facebook, or any social network, will naturally deteriorate with the next generation gap.

      No teenager or young adult wants to be in the same social space as their parents

      So to be rebellious they'll create Assbook.

  • No, I'm not going to read the article because the summary screams of stupid. The first warning sign of complete idiocy was the claim that if Facebook collapsed there "would be potentially huge costs to its users". Um, what cost? If Facebook fails it will cost me exactly $0.00. Nothing. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. I don't know how to make that any clearer but Facebook's failure carries no costs for its users. Second, to suggest that social networks _must_ use open standards and that this requirement should be wr

  • by AndrewStephens ( 815287 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @12:23AM (#39923937) Homepage

    This goes for all social networks (including Slashdot) but I will use Facebook as an example:

    You do not have a FaceBook page.

    No you don't.

    Facebook has a page on you, which you update for them for free. You are a product that Facebook produces for its customers. The customers of Facebook are the advertisers, not you. This is not necessarily a bad deal for you. You get to show people Facebook's page about you, and derive pleasure from interacting with Facebook's pages about your friends. All for free.

    But don't get upset when Facebook decides to improve things for its customers, because they can (and should) put them first. Facebook owes you nothing.

    Regulating social networks seems like an exercise in frustration. What counts as a social network? Does my blog count? Do I need to let users download all their comments in an "industry standard format"? Do MMO's count? Can I download my +5 firesword?

    • Facebook owes you nothing

      Actually, the unwritten contract is that "if facebook becomes too unpleasant to use, I will stop giving facebooks my valuable data"

      AKA if they change things so much that I find it annoying to use (or cant figure it out period), I'll stop using it. Since Timeline, I expect that my usage has had a significant drop as I no longer can "use" a lot of the features I once did. Specifically there were a few fan-pages I attended at least 3 or 4 times an evening that I don't use at all now because I cant figure out

  • Red Flag.

    Elect consumers to the Board Of Directors of major corporations?


    Who would actually do the voting for a multi-national corporation?

    Every citizen of every country where the company has an office? That obviously wouldn't work.

    What would *really* happen is that governments would appoint some mix of politically connected toadies and agenda-driven left-wing activists who's only goal are to bleed the company dry.

    • by azalin ( 67640 )
      There where a few good points in the article, but also some really whacky stuff. The customer representatives in the board of directors definitively falls in the later category. And in case of FB, who are the "customers" anyway - the data providers or the companies paying for ads?
  • all data held about a user is downloadable by that user, in an open standard

    This is exactly what Google+ allows. I have not used other social networks, so I don't know whether they offer this option (but am guessing mostly no).

  • We need to make sure we preserve all those incriminating photos you posted on Facebook in your 20s so they continue to haunt you all the way to your grave.
  • What seems to be happening lately is that the "Web" companies are trying to force small phone-screen layouts onto big-screen machines. That's what "Metro" is. Even Mozilla has a similar thing in the works. (The menu bar moves to the bottom of the screen and becomes darker. New!)

    The other big trends are slaving everything to the "cloud", whether it needs it or not, an anal-probe level of tracking, and an "app store". The goal seems to be to create closed ecosystems with no escape. It worked for Apple.


  • Recently I've been noticing advertisements on TV and billboards with a company's facebook page listed in addition to or in place of where you might expect to see a more full-fledged website's url. It reminds me of a decade ago when everyone was listing " or AOL keyword foo."

  • "Mandate open standards by firms"

    Wow, where do I fucking begin with how ass-poundingly dumb THIS idea is. Mandate open standards for what, exactly? Data exchange? Data storage? The underlying schema? Write a law that defines how all social networks have to use 'standards' for how to do their business. Great. What a douchebag, just for thinking that this is even feasible under current law. While he's at it, he should define the companies that fall under this...theoretically, Slashdot could fall withi

    • "What if it's pre-IPO (in other words, as it stands today) Facebook? There IS no board of directors yet...there are no shareholders, because there is no stock."

      I don't think you know much about how private corporations work. Facebook has all of these things: directors, shares, and shareholders.

  • The minute social networks start behaving like email (that is, work with protocols that communicate but anyone can actually run a server, preferably one of many available flavors) I'll get into them. Not before. Diaspora seems to be going that way, but I haven't yet gotten around to setting up a pod of my own.

  • by future assassin ( 639396 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @12:57AM (#39924175) Homepage

    as people I know started to sign up and use social sites more and more I stared getting less and less calls from them. Now I only get calls from a few of them. Don't get me wrong its not a bad thing as it lets me know who my real friends are.

  • by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @01:04AM (#39924217)

    Let's avoid worrying about the collapse of social network sites by not using them to begin with.

    No, really. Stop uploading everything to a third-party company so they can data-mine it and make it hard for you to get any of it back if their business plan fails. You want a presence on the Net? Run a blog on your own website. You can even pick the domain you really want to hand out then. People can leave comments, subscribe with RSS, communicate with you via this fabulous standard called email. Web hosting is cheap. You can add advertising to help pay the bill for it, no different than an ad-filled experience at existing social networks now is it? Still too expensive? Well social networks and blogs aren't a necessity of life, they're recreational things -- hobbies. Hobbies cost money, ask anyone who does model trains, remote control airplanes, woodworking, stamps, etc. If you don't want to pay for it maybe you don't want to do it that badly. Not everyone has to have a page on the Internet, not everyone who does necessarily has anything really to say. There's millions of ghost ship blogs their owners haven't written on in years.

    We already have standards for moving this information around. It's called HTML, JPEG, GIF, all those web languages and filetypes you can open with any web browser.

    What a non-issue.

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      people running their own blogs is much more vulnerable to decay and disappearing, pretty annoying to find a post that links to a dead post that was popular guide for doing some thing xyz. and frankly blogosphere is more vulnerable for history edits too. which is why we're on slashdot and not doing twitter retweets notifying of our new comments - which sucks bigtime.

      and there's a cooperative corporation model the guy is suggesting(users as owners), doesn't suit too well for social network companies though.

      • by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @03:40AM (#39924889)

        people running their own blogs is much more vulnerable to decay and disappearing, pretty annoying to find a post that links to a dead post that was popular guide for doing some thing xyz.

        A blog post really isn't the best place to host a how-to IMO. It only has two strengths over a static page: You can edit it and update it, and people can write comments other people might find helpful. But comments can be helpful or not depending on who's writing them. They can't give bad info, be spam comments, ect.

        Guess what: Instructables is another social network. It's just less blatant as one.

        Take your how-to, type it up nice and clear in OpenOffice, do some basic page layout with the pictures, and make a PDF out of it. Give it a version number. Now host your PDF. If you update it increment the version number. If your guide is really that great it will eventually end up on the Net in a torrent and when you update it if people are following your work those torrents will magically update, too. People who don't stand next to the stove/wood-working bench/soldering table with an iPad or a laptop will appreciate this. Rather than referring to your blog page they can print it out for easier reference and it wont look weird. They can stick it on a flash drive as a single file to back it up for offline viewing.

        and there's a cooperative corporation model the guy is suggesting(users as owners),

        That post advocates a

        (x) technical ( ) legislative ( ) market-based (x) vigilante

        approach to social network fragmentation and stagnation. That idea will not work. Here is why it won't work. (One or more of the following may apply to this particular idea, and it may have other flaws which used to vary from state to state before a bad federal law was passed.)

        (x) Spammers can easily use it to harvest email addresses
        ( ) Mailing lists and other legitimate email uses would be affected
        (x) Someone will try to find a way to control it and make money from it
        ( ) It is defenseless against brute force attacks
        (x) Microsoft will not put up with it
        (x) The police will not put up with it (teh terrorists can communicate too easily!)
        ( ) Requires too much cooperation from spammers
        (x) Requires immediate total cooperation from everybody at once
        ( ) Spammers don't care about invalid addresses in their lists
        ( ) Anyone could anonymously destroy anyone else's career or business

        Specifically, your plan fails to account for

        ( ) Laws expressly prohibiting it
        ( ) Lack of centrally controlling authority for email
        ( ) Open relays in foreign countries
        ( ) Ease of searching tiny alphanumeric address space of all email addresses
        (x) Asshats
        ( ) Jurisdictional problems
        ( ) Public reluctance to accept weird new forms of money
        (x) Armies of worm riddled broadband-connected Windows boxes
        (x) Eternal arms race involved in all filtering approaches
        (x) Extreme profitability of spam
        ( ) Joe jobs and/or identity theft
        ( ) Technically illiterate politicians
        ( ) Extreme stupidity on the part of people who do business with spammers
        ( ) Dishonesty on the part of spammers themselves

        and the following philosophical objections may also apply:

        (x) Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none have ever
        been shown practical
        ( ) Any scheme based on opt-out is unacceptable
        ( ) Countermeasures should not involve wire fraud or credit card fraud
        ( ) Countermeasures should not involve sabotage of public networks
        ( ) Countermeasures must work if phased in gradually
        ( ) Sending email should be free
        (x) Why should we have to trust you and your servers?
        ( ) Incompatiblity with open source or open source licenses
        ( ) Feel-good measures do nothing to solve the problem
        ( ) Killing them that way is not slow and painful enough

        Furthermore, this is what I think about you:

        (x) Sorry dude, but I don't think it would work.
        ( ) This is a stupid ide

  • The Forbes article smells like a Wired or Fast Company article from 1999. It even uses the much loved phrase of that time, "paradigm shift." And then there's this nugget:

    "It’s a lot easier to start asking Siri for information instead of typing search terms into a box compared to thousands of enterprises ceasing to upgrade to the next version of Windows."


  • As much as I and others have been able to avoid getting involved in social networking websites, it's not as though anyone should seriously believe Facebook would vanish into the night suddenly and leave everyone stranded. The only way Facebook is going down is through a competing product taking away its users, like Facebook did to MySpace.

  • If Facebook were to suddenly vanish tomorrow, and you could not access any of your posted material - would anything of value have been lost?

    I do get on Facebook a few times a week... but I'd have to say "no". And I say that both in regard to my account and in regard to my FB friends' accounts. Others might not agree with me, but I see what they're posting on there - 50 years from now, the grandkids aren't going to care about that tasty sandwich or those cogent, insightful observations about Mitt Romney.

  • shareholders (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @03:19AM (#39924777) Homepage Journal

    Bwuahaha... yeah, right.

    Author is missing the elephant in the room. He's thinking Facebook exists to serve its users at all. It doesn't. The users aren't the customers, they're the product. Facebook treats its users like a meat plant treats its cattle: Just well enough that they make a good product.

    Google could've really shaken up FB, but they opted to copy it instead.

    I will tell you what will destroy Facebook: A FB-like Dropbox-frontend. Something that allows you to share whatever you want to share, blurring the boundary between local and cloud by making "the cloud" just a directory on your device.

    Dropbox (or any other cloud service) has the potential to replace FB by integrating with any and all local apps, giving you a "share this" button on everything that simply puts the file into your Dropbox public folder and notifies your social graph.

    The entire business model of Facebook is built on holding your data hostage. Unless they were to become really threatened, they would be stupid to change that.

    But a company whose business model is built on charging you for sharing and storing data would have you as the customer, and interested in keeping you happy, not the advertisers. Of course, this also requires something much more difficult than passing a stupid law: A change in user mindset. People would have to get used (again) to actually paying for something.

    • I will tell you what will destroy Facebook: A FB-like Dropbox-frontend. Something that allows you to share whatever you want to share, blurring the boundary between local and cloud by making "the cloud" just a directory on your device.

      Wuala [] works a bit like that, with a somewhat clumsy UI though. Your files are also accessible from Wuala's web servers and you can start "groups" with members who can comment on the group, members, files (through Wuala's file system integration on Windows)... It's not really being used actively though, which is a shame - and the UI needs to be fixed.

      • by Tom ( 822 )

        It needs more than that to be a FB killer. It needs to integrate the social graph into the whole thing.

        That's not all that difficult. What you need is a permission system allowing for more than "public" and "private". Basically, "friends" and "friends of friends", etc. as filesystem permissions. Then you store the users social graph data as a file in his folder. You also need a database file for postings and comments and that's the technical part. Nothing of that is black magic, scaling it to FB sizes is ce

  • by cardpuncher ( 713057 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @05:13AM (#39925281)

    What did all those businesses with Burroughs, Univac, CDC, Honeywell, Data General and DEC computers do when the companies stopped making them? In some cases successor companies kept them going with spares and maintenance for a while or offered some sort of upgrade path. But mostly it involved spending a lot of money porting software and data over to new architectures.

    The reason those products disappeared is because of technology change - there wasn't a big enough market for mainframes when minicomputers emerged and there wasn't enough market for minicomputers when the PC emerged because the new buyers could jump to the latest technology without the legacy transition costs. That meant an additional cost burden for those who'd adopted the previous generation of technology as well as the ultimate end of their technology providers. That's how it is.

    Guess what: Facebook will almost certainly ultimately go the same way as Data General. About the only long-established technology company that hasn't suffered a similar fate is IBM (and internally it's nothing like the same company it was in the 1960s). Something "better" will inevitably come along. Have you prepared your transition plan? Where is your backup?

    The difference now is that nobody is paying Facebook monthly maintenance fees to give it some value during the transition window: when it goes, there's nothing to sustain it long enough for you to get data out that is valuable to you. The only hope you have is there is data worth sufficient to another company that they buy it and let you see it again.

    Social networks have no commercial interest in allowing you to get your data out - if you can, you can conveniently give it to someone else and then its value is largely lost. You are the commodity - when you're gone, you're gone. Plan accordingly.

  • by water-and-sewer ( 612923 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @06:21AM (#39925525) Homepage

    Call me a curmudgeon, but the immediate impact - after the shock and awe wear off - would be people learning how to elucidate complex points again. In the early days of Usenet posts were longer and better thought out. That trend carried into email when POP3 and offline clients meant you had time to compose your thoughts. Webmail shortened people's attention span, since you had to fire off your message before the page expired. Facebook shortened it again: you don't have to even have a coherent thought anymore as you really only need to stab blindly at the stupid "like" button and click on pictures people think are funny. Don't get me started on Twitter, but let's just say in a language where you only get 140 characters per thought you don't waste any of them on verbs (or often vowels).

    If Social networking died in a firestorm, the 'net would be quiet for a bit. But perhaps people would get back in the habit of thinking about things more complex than whether or not they "like" the video of the funny cat.

    Nah, who am I kidding? Those days are past, and each generation is stupider than the last one now. Yay us. Alright then, I'm off to wash my '68 Thunderbird while listening to Steely Dan on my transistor radio. Damn kids.

"How many teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?" "FIFTEEN!! YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?"