This is like a wild meadow turning to a manicured lawn. The near-monoculture of the web will have a much harder time withstanding legal assault by state actors than a distributed web would have.
So users have a problem. Companies that solved it the right way became enormous, because protection from all that crap is something people want, and they want it to be easy to use. In the early days it was anti-spam (Gmail). More recently, Snapchat helped teens avoid creating a permanent record of things.
Sure, you can go outside the walls at any time, but how many people really want to? The way to win users is to provide better protection than before, including defenses against new privacy threats, not to somehow convince people they don't need to care about it.
Sometimes providing better protection results in more freedom (of a sort). For example, a well-maintained app store means users don't have to worry about malware and viruses, so they can download whatever games they want without worrying that they'll infect their machine. This wasn't true of Windows in the old days.
Ironically, the web started out pretty safe (or so we thought) and degraded as more adtech came along. These days you can hardly click on a link without getting ads in your face. There's opportunity for someone.
It's almost like some kind of weird digital feudalism. You're free to come and go, and if you want, you can live in the wild and take your chances. But if you want the safety of the walls and armed defenders, that comes with a lot of strings attached. And if you ever want to move out of those walls, you leave your plot and your house, with everything valuable on them, behind.
But there is always going to be some kind of a speedbump when sharing between places with different policies. When you have borders between things that are genuinely different (even if they're gratuitous differences), you have border issues. Bigger social networks mean you reach more people without going over a border, which encourages growth.
Borders are everywhere. In the enterprise space, you can look at the growth of Amazon and Google Cloud. In devtools, each programming language tends to be its own domain. (Which is why we call them "foreign" functions.)
I'll grant you the first part, but sharing is actually a lot harder than it used to be, these days. Try sharing a Facebook post or comment with someone who doesn't have a Facebook account...
> In devtools, each programming language tends to be its own domain. (Which is why we call them "foreign" functions.)
True, but we also develop FFI as a way to call those foreign functions, and meta-frameworks to enable cross-language interop (WinRT being the most recent prominent example of such). Worst case, you can use standard formats and protocols to at least exchange data. Whereas "walled gardens" tend to be deliberately hard to interop with, or even to extract your existing data from.
Why isn't Snapchat more popular than Instagram? I assumed that it was the case that more people have stage fright than don't. Is this a faulty assumption, or are people just acting in defiance of this fear?
Full disclosure: I bought a bunch of snapchat stock at the bottom because I fully invest in the self-centeredness of humankind. Worked great w/ FB.
The UX diverges from common design principles of both major mobile OS, making it feel awkward. The app slaughters batteries in Android phones, occasionally you can actually watch the % drop.
That's not to say it isn't popular, wildly so in younger users, Instagram just has more ad value because of its maturity (reportable metrics) and unbridled desire to be an ad platform.
It was there before Eternal September. And yes, it's still there, and far richer than it's ever been.
> The problem is that it got too hostile for most users due to spam, viruses, malware, phishing, trolls, doxing, and so on.
It's arguably those mainstream users who are problematic. In large part, they're the trolls. And the ones who are trolled, of course. And they're the bloody flesh in the water that's attracted all the sharks.
> It will get worse, as attackers adopt machine learning techniques and automate social engineering at scale.
> Sure, you can go outside the walls at any time, but how many people really want to?
Anyone with any sense will. The rest can have their AOL/CompuServe experience. And good riddance.
That sounds a bit ignorant. Those mainstream users are the vast majority, they make a lot of internet business models worthwhile and made the internet the success that it is. Of course they also attract sharks as you rightfully say, but we should try to improve their experiences instead of denying them any sense or intelligence and putting them in walled gardens.
I think you need walled gardens for mainstream users. The reason is that the weakest link in any security system is people. Especially normal, pleasant, trusting, non-confrontational people. People like my grandparents, who just install whatever a guy who claims to be tech support tells them to install.
Should people like my grandparents have a good experience on the internet? Absolutely. Can they have it without taking away all their freedom to make mistakes? I don't see how. Any freedom we give them will be exploited by the sharks. Education is a good thing which can make them more shark-resistant, but not everyone will take it upon themselves to be educated.
Many idealists considered that a ridiculous idea.
> Incredibly so. But I have realized that the large majority of Internet users today have no point of reference to that time because they were either not alive, where very small children, or weren't paying any attention to what was going on. But for a brief time, humanity was being uplifted instead of being loaded onto digital cattle cars. There truly is a threat here--technocracy is turning America into a gulag and it needs to stop. No, I am not kidding. It's not just the Internet, it's all the companies collecting massive data "to better serve us" that are creating the . chains.
> I'm just glad I experienced that early period. Sunsite at UNC was the greatest. There were many true humanitarians back then. Today, we have the growing evil of Google and the Never-Was-Anything-But-Evil Facebook!
Yeah, it's been very sad to see possibility crushed, and people pervasively surveilled and manipulated.
I would guess that today's distributed web (IPFS, etc.) has more content, and users, than the "wild web" of 1992 or whatever era you fondly recollect.
Yes, centralized players created tools that produced exponentially more content (and control). But it's lazy to blame that peripheral phenomenon for a perceived "loss".
The wild web still exists, and has the potential to grow (cf. Urbit). What's stopping it?
There's a lot of promise behind the "distributed web" or "P2P web" prototypes, but they haven't been effectively commoditized, and their value proposition over the top-level "spyweb" isn't strong enough for normal users who don't understand the inner workings. In fact, they tend to offer less end-user benefit, since a P2P web is necessarily slower as peers negotiate connections, deal with vaporizing peers, etc.
Consumers care only about getting their desires fulfilled as quickly and easily as possible. If you want a new web to dominate, you must make something that gives the consumers and/or the companies upstream from them an incentive to exert the effort to change.
Personally, I believe the web is already sufficiently "decentralized" in the necessary sense. We just have legal restrictions that prevent true competition with the tech conglomerates, as they're allowed to effectively claim exclusive domain over all user-generated content.
There's no reason I shouldn't be able to go to NewGoog or NewFace and multiplex in the available data streams hosted by the web nodes at google.com and facebook.com, except that this violates the CFAA and the Copyright Act, and Google and Facebook can and will sue you to make you stop. This is the primary constraint that has led to the recentralization of the web.
What do you expect when you make it a crime to send any type of undesired communication to a server? The CFAA doesn't just prevent harmful or disruptive access, but all unauthorized access. In practice, this is almost always used to stymie small innovators who are putting the data from a data source like Facebook to better use.
This is fundamentally anti-competitive, and again, it's no wonder that the web is coalescing into the hands of a few central controllers. It has never been more apparent that the user is the product being sold and peddled.
We need to reorient our perspective of the internet with users, not services, as the central entity, and give them full control over the data that they generate. Then, the user will be free again, without the need for complex P2P solutions.
There are also things like OpenBazaar and a whole host of other applications running on IPFS that are quite useful. Sure, it may not be mainstream, but nothing starts out being mainstream.
What's stopping authoritarian entity from poisoning/redirecting ipfs.io to static page?
(Which is IMHO one of the weaknesses of IPFS, that they haven't made that more prominent/easier, through browser plugins or a dedicated IPFS-browser. Compare to e.g. the publicity boost Dat got from Beaker Browser)
It'll redirect all IPFS URLs to your local daemon.
It has not yet brought about the collapse of civilization, or a descent into despotism.
^ It has also taken place in the US, but to a different extent.
That's quite a short time scale.
Perhaps, but the "reigning in" referenced in the title is now being done by commercial interests at the request of governments in exchange for staying in those government's good graces.
They do the same thing with many (large) companies, the State Department, all military/intelligence branches, etc. It's how you get access, and they seem more willing to play ball and churn out these puff pieces over doing real journalism than anyone. The Times is the most prominent example of this pattern, but it's becoming more and pervasive.
edit: I mistakenly put Wash Times. Yehowa.
Which might- if freedom is allowed to fluctuate- may result in competition. Look at chinas weechat
I don't trust any government to censor, but we know the russians engaged in shady tactics already.
> By the time Zuckerberg began extolling the virtues of hacking, he had stripped the name of most of its original meaning and distilled it into a managerial philosophy that contains barely a hint of rebelliousness.
I rather disagree. Indeed, I believe that Facebook has taken hacking to an extreme level. As the article argues, they're against free will. Not only are they're compromising users' privacy, they're arguing against privacy as a legitimate option. Because there's arguably no integrity in it:
> “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly,” Zuckerberg has said. “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”
That's an extremely authoritarian, "we have the Truth, you are Wrong, and we will Prevail", attitude. And it totally ignores power imbalances, where having different images in different contexts is the only possibility for any freedom.
Compartmentalization with multiple personas is essential for survival in a pervasively authoritarian world.
I tend to think that it would be quite possible for a company to fill the Facebook niche in a much more positive way, while still making a profit. But they certainly won't be able to do it as long as Facebook is there.
Today, Facebook is nothing like those systems of the past. It's now a horribly gamified, ad-saturated UX anti-pattern nightmare. I'm pretty sure that was also more or less inevitable, but for different reasons.
Things like a standard WordPress/Geocities blog or RSS feed do not have an address book or shared group calendar.
Also, think about the "record locator" for a WordPress site or RSS: it's a _url_. In contrast, the "record locator" for Facebook friends is a [person's real name] or [phone number] or [email address].
It should be obvious that the ramifications of those differences are profound.
E.g. a new user signs up for Facebook, then uploads her contact listing, and then instantly sees suggested contacts including family members, coworkers, old high school & college buddies.
Yes, the sign up steps for Facebook is easier than WordPress but beyond that, the social dynamics of discovering other accounts and sharing are more optimized for the typical ~2 billion users.
Today, plenty of blogs still offer RSS feeds, but without Google Reader around to easily allow people to subscribe to them, they just aren’t being used as much. Also, because nowadays blog owners feel such pressure to monetize, RSS feeds tend to be hidden and discouraged because they could allow users to read content without viewing advertisements. I know one cranky and avaricious blog owner who will automatically ban you from his site if you point out that the site has an RSS feed.
It is some crazy ultimate circle jerk and echo chamber, made for incredibly easy consumption (the latter getting worse). For countries where deep thought about some subjects is forbidden, I guess it is worse.
I stopped using Facebook; only use messenger and occasionally upvote someone's birthday. But yes I believe it was and is inevitable because we are human and it is in us to consume mostly.
If someone means little enough to you that this is how you wish them a happy birthday, maybe you shouldn't bother at all. If they mean something to you, pick up a phone and call them.
All you're accomplishing, is helping Facebook encourage that person to continue using it by giving them that little dopamine hit from your "upvote".
If people looked at Facebook "birthday wishes" for what they are, they'd be seen as a negative.
"This person put in as much effort wishing me happy birthday as random people on reddit do upvoting cat memes"
> If they mean something to you, pick up a phone and call them
that is nonsense imho; calling is also nothing (I also don't see the difference between calling and chatting) (ah, I mean so much to you, you couldn't be bothered to get off your couch). If they mean something you meet them; people important to me I fly out to go to their birthdays, weddings, divorces and funerals.
But yes you have do have a good point in general which I agree with.
> that is nonsense imho; calling is also nothing (I also don't see the difference between calling and chatting) (ah, I mean so much to you, you couldn't be bothered to get off your couch). If they mean something you meet them; people important to me I fly out to go to their birthdays, weddings, divorces and funerals.
I agree with you, and probably chose the wrong example/wording to get my point across. My point was just that you'd put more effort in for people you care about.
There's clearly no value in sharing digital photographs, videos and links with other people with ability to get feedback from them.
By extension, there's no need for HN, right?
Instant no from me.
Yes, At least this should ring a bell to all those who still think they can write anything on FB about a Government and get away with it. Facebook while being pushed and portrayed as your personal diary is actually your digital repository only accessible for the most elite like Government.
While an average FB user can easily shame anyone around him (like how frustrated boy friends shame their ex girl friends), fellow average FBians can't do much. This reiterates the capitalist world that we live in where Democracy is just a myth.
They should be able to. Free speech is a human right. FB should not be helping governments violate human rights.
> This reiterates the capitalist world that we live in where Democracy is just a myth.
Those are two different things.
I think it is usually framed in as a human right against government intervention. That is the government can't shut you up if you want to criticize it. However FB is not the government. FB can stop and censor people because it is a private entity. Nobody has a right to use FB's resources (server time, bandwidth) for free to say whatever they want. They can be kicked out without any legal repercussion.
Now wonder what happens if the government gives incentives FB to act on its behalf. Maybe a carrot and stick approach, it can tax it higher, raid its offices or pay it off with contracts in response to FB silencing or blocking certain users. This is where it gets interesting.
What about if a 3rd party wants to silence some opinions and it has nothing to do with the government. Does free speech still apply. Let's say multi-billionaire wants to shape public opinion so it pays billions of dollars to FB or Google to silence and suppress competing opinions. No government in sight here. But it does feel like free speech is being violated. Or is it? Kinda interesting to think about.
And this is not just hypothetical after the election Facebook, Google and Twitter all jumped on the "we will work hard to fight Fake News" bandwagon. It was a nice impulse on the surface, but I think what they really meant was that they are offering those who have money to spend the ability to manipulate and control opinions and discussions since they are essentially monopolies of online social interaction and news dissemination.
Laughed out loud at this. I can understand wanting access to the market but this is just embarrassingly desperate.
"Please sir, let Facebook enter China. Here, I'll even offer you my first born!"
If he's willing to do this with his kid, what is he willing to do with our data? Sorry, I meant Facebook's data, according to their ToS.
[Redacted Friend's Name]: What? How'd you manage that one?
Zuck: People just submitted it.
Zuck: I don't know why.
Zuck: They "trust me"
Zuck: Dumb fucks.
And, if anything, his actions since have only underscored that fact.
Please stick to substance and comment civilly or not at all.
What is happening is that Facebook is shifting from being AOL 2.0 to being a government contractor. They'll eventually be more entrenched and integrated (in the US) with the IRS, police, intelligence, etc.
The first step is to get them over a barrel, with public opinion against them. The rest is easy, and FB will embrace it.
I really do not want facebook's new world.
The cold reality is that this is not true. And, thus, in time, to exist within a repressive regime requires importing the repression within the software. This is the bargain Facebook wants to make.
When i was single and had free time public IPs were golden because then you could run a webserver and DNS and once you've registered a domain name you could get whatever you wanted out on the web.
I can get a public IP, server, and DNS for basically free now with a few clicks. If something sucks and you think it could be better than go do it and let the world be the judge. The web is more accesible now than ever.
That is a really scary thing to have read. Perhaps the New York Times is out of line in using it, but if that metaphor is even 10% accurate that would be very bad.
To give some background, the “Scramble for Africa”
is the only time I’ve ever read the words, where the writer had a serious argument, “was worse than the holocaust”. This was in reference to the mass deaths in the Congo under King Leopold of Belgium, as documented in the book “King Leopold’s Ghost”.
I know a ton of people have died in history and there have been so many wars, but the Scramble for Africa was really really really bad.
Yeah so I guess in conclusion, NY Times shouldn’t have used that phrase, Facebook sucks, and if they (Facebook) mess up almost everywhere please please just not let them mess up the African continent.