A mail system that doesn’t have a Bcc function doesn’t belong in the 21st Century.
This reminds me of a comment that we almost always get on HN when Facebook comes up, and its almost always right: it's not for you. If you want Bcc, it's not for you. The millions of people who are younger than you don't think to CC, let alone BCC. They want to communicate, and they want to do it now, and email is just that formal thing Dad uses. That's their terms, and Facebook gives it to them.
The author also discounts Facebook as being some sort of Neo-AOL. It is that, but where AOL faltered was being a completely walled garden. Facebook as a development platform, and, perhaps more importantly, an online identity to all sorts of other sites, makes Facebook use even more in-grained. I would love to see some stats from sites that allow Facebook Connect on how much their user registration went up. Facebook offers a portal, but also a wider identity, and they do it well.
If Facebook isn't for you, then that's that. But it doesn't mean what they're doing is wrong.
The author is well aware that Facebook isn't for him.
> The fact is Facebook isn’t made for someone like me, who once handrolled his own html code and then uploaded it using UNIX commands because he was excited to have his own Web site, and back in 1993 that’s how you did it.
> But again, also: Not really for me. I look at Facebook and what I mostly see are a bunch of seemingly arbitrary and annoying functionality choices.
I can see what FB does right - identity and other apis are good, but the site itself has very poor usability, unfortunately. Author's point - that you usually have no idea where your message goes and who can see it - is one thing that makes me limit it's usage to a minimum.
And the very valid observation that FB wall is usually cluttered with senseless status updates and stupid game events from an otherwise intelligent people does not add any points, too.
But surely, seeing how well FB is doing for other people who don't want to learn all that complicated things to post pictures online, I give them credit. Just not 50B of it :)
FB will never become the new Internet, and probably will never even become Internet's identity DB. See interviews with Mark where he tries to reply to a direct question whether or not he understands what kind of responsibility he gets with owning 500mil user records. He has no idea. I foresee a horrendous crash of trust. Hope I'm wrong.
What, are you serious? Since 90% of my non-techie friends can figure out who's going to see what you write in walls, messages and photo comments, I'm pretty devastated to hear that 5 HN users find it a challenge.
I think your non-techie friends are just assuming that the folks that they want to see what they write, will, and those they don't want to see what they write, won't. And, mostly, they're right.
The biggest problem, for me, is that who can see these things is not up to only those involved in the conversation. It hardly even matters what the exact effect is of the rules currently in place, since they could change at any time. The rules on who can see my email inbox don't change. (I think this was what really upset people about Google Buzz: suddenly the rules around who could see what changed, making everyone on gmail who cares about that sort of thing insecure about their own email.)
Thanks but I'm really not that old :)
As to your point, I guess it depends on what your friends use facebook for. As a place for some smalltalk and humor - sure, they probably would never worry if the whole world reads it. But not suitable for discussing anything at all, since you have no control over the audience. And most people don't realize that their inner-circle private discussions are most probably world-readable - I'll save some space and won't list endless possible consequences.
I haven't used Bcc many times but generally Facebook messages seem all phony to me. It doesn't seem to be a real conversation; I don't "own" the messages the same way I do when I use a real email program. Even gmail offers me tools to work with the messages themselves: on Facebook there's very little I can do with the messages. Basically I can just reply or delete the thread: exactly the same options that I have with a status with comments.
Yes: you don't own the messages. It is a private internet that FB owns. That's why I don't like it.
The internet is meant to be decentralized. I use Mail Service X, you use Y, maybe one of us runs our own mail server. Doesn't matter. A common protocol makes it work. If my mail server dies or your service goes offline, any emails we've sent still live on the remaining server.
If we want private communications, we can encrypt our messages. If we want to use email as an API, we can. We can receive and parse and archive to our hearts' content.
When FB owns both ends, owns the servers, controls the features, and keeps the data, we communicate at their pleasure. If they want to scrape for political keywords or decline to deliver messages about banana bread, they can. If they want to delete your messages, they can. If they want to forward your messages to advertisers, they can.
"So what?" people say. "Gmail scans your messages and shows ads." True. But if I'm ever uncomfortable, I can switch to any email provider I want, or set up my own server.
If John and I both use Gmail, I can leave Gmail and still stay in touch with him. But if John and I both use Facebook, I can't leave Facebook without losing the ability to message him. If everyone I know is like John, leaving Facebook is voluntary exile, and nobody wants to do it first.
The internet is meant to be decentralized. For many people, FB is taking over the internet.
Well, yes and no. A major advantage of FB is that, once they suppressed the crazy app invites, it's spam-free. The only people who can send me messages are people I've already "whitelisted" by adding them/accepting their add. Once they start allowing inbound email, it all goes a bit hatstand.
It would have to be a heavily optimised webmail UI. Current webmail implementations are too heavy on legacy features that normal people don't use (BCC/CC), have issues with spam ("why do good emails end up in my spam bin where as this viagra ad does not?") and light on social link and media sharing features that facebook users would expect.
A messaging system isn't for you unless it has bcc? No.
The lack of bcc leads to different usage patterns and can be thought of as a feature itself. It leads to more explicit communication. It means the recipients are exactly the ones who are clearly listed.
More generally, Facebook is bigger than the sum of its parts because of the social behavior that emerges there. Enabling this is what makes Facebook special.
I agree entirely. What Facebook provides is certainly not the only way to accomplish (or access) messaging/photo sharing/whatever. However, despite the limitations of such Facebook services, a large percentage of the population still choose them over other available options with more functionality. Perhaps the extra functionality isn't really that important to the average internet user. Or perhaps the average internet user even prefers the lack of extraneous, seldom used functionality that confuses and distracts them from their core purpose in using such services.
Aye, that comment stuck for me as being absolutely absurd. I'm a coder, nerd, etc, but I use Facebook to organise people/events, and as a simple way of reaching lots of people at once (for events), peruse comical photos etc. I've never used Bcc in my life and just because I like going out and having fun with friends it doesn't make me "stupid".
I honestly hadn't expected this outpouring of vitriol here against John Scalzi, of all people. The things I'm reading here - that he's "just jealous" or what have you - are frankly blowing my mind.
I thought his point was pretty clear: FB is rolling in cash and is the target of the latest 15-minute hype and 50 billion dollars of Goldman-Sachs paper valuation, but isn't really breaking new ground in providing the best possible platform for the Web, and he predicts that this will cause it to fail, like other non-ideal repackaging efforts in the past, because it is limited. And he has some experience in this, because he was an employee of AOL in the day.
And weirdly, here at HNN, of all places, I am witnessing a deluge of rabid Facebook fanboys, many of whom apparently think he's just an old fogie who doesn't understand the new generation. The world never ceases to amaze me.
I think the discussion is divided between two camps:
1) Those who can't imagine the point of a messaging (or indeed, any) system that does not have all the bells and whistles you can imagine or get using another system.
2) Those that realise that most people only use a very small subset of those features, and that everything else is just a potential cause of confusion. So, offering a messaging system that "does a few things, but does them well" will be an attractive proposition for many people.
It seems that these two camps can't see each other's points of view. The author of the article seems to acknowledge 2 but keeps coming back to 1.
"more words are always good, right"
No. Less words to say the same thing are normally much better, the rest is just noise.
I don't really think your snarky attitude is adding to the discussion, but, more than that, it's not even correct. The vast majority of replies here are decidedly anti facebook, and the ones that arent tend to be luke warm at best. Additionally, if you look at the front page over the last couple days, he popular facebook related articles have been very anti facebook.
I'm not trying to make any claims about face book's virtue (as a future facebook engineer, I doubt I would have much credibility anyway), but it is unfair to be so dismissive about people who might argue that it isn't completely awful, when they certainly aren't just part of hn groupthink (as you seem to have suggested.)
Fine, ill add some detail to my snarky comment. There is so much going on in the valley and in tech right now that frankly has all happened before. Given the market conditions now are far more ripe for all these services, which allows them to be made and more successful now.
The problem I see, and the point of my comment is that we truly aren't seeing too much that is new - but when a company comes along that is hyper successful and full of young talented engineers - people forget history.
That is fine - but I think people need to take a step back sometimes.
Point taken, however. (I'll take my own advice about taking a step back :) )
I wish I could sign on to the damn thing and not have the first thing I feel be exasperation at the aggressive dimness of it UI and its functionality.
People use Facebook because they see past the "website" and read the content. They communicate with their friends and family. How many non-technical people have you ever heard complain about email apps? They don't because they use email to communicate, not to use an email app.
If the first thing you feel is "exasperation at the aggressive dimness of it UI and its functionality" then you need to find some new people to connect with so that you're actually interested in reading what they have to say.
You're right - my intention was to get simpler than that, and I wasn't thinking about Outlook or Exchange which are filled with problems because I don't use them. I was thinking along the lines of reply, compose, forward, signatures, etc. Simple concepts that people learn and apply with ease.
They "read the content" if you can call countless banal status updates "content" then yes. Facebook provides a useful way of sharing pictures, connecting with friends but most importantly for an ever larger number, a place to seek some sort of validation for the pointless minutia of their boring lives.
Just for the record, I was uploading my own website back in '93 too, and I use Facebook and quite enjoy it, for the same reason the author does, because not all my friends were in the same boat.
Calling other people stupid for not building and maintaining their own website strikes as bit elitist, just as saying that people that don't design and build their own houses are lazy. We specialize.
To him it is easy / fun / rewarding to build his own blog, photo sharing, thingamabob. Sure, it has been for me too in the past. But it isn't anymore, especially because Facebook wins on the front of notifying my friends of things of mine they might find interesting.
In short, he is really missing the point, that Facebook has allowed millions upon millions of people to participate on the web in a way they couldn't before. Were they the first to try? No, but they are the first to do so so successfully across such a wide strata of users.
I also find it super ironic that he seems to think highly of Twitter (talk about lack of features!!) while gives Facebook a hard time for missing functionality. At least I can comment on 'status' messages on Facebook without changing my own status. :)
Yes, that line came off as egotistical posturing. We got it.
But I don't like that your snarky quip--which distorts the fact that the author continues to use facebook out of a sense of social obligation, and which I don't think adds much to the discussion--is the most upvoted comment here.
Sure, you can be cynical and mock the guy, but I'd rather see you address his arguments. I'm not so much annoyed that you took the obvious potshot, just disappointed that the rest of HN is currently voting this the most important takeaway from the essay.
The reason this is the most important takeaway is that Scalzi is calling the people at Facebook "stupid", despite the fact that they are much smarter than him.
"there’s very little Facebook does, either as
a technological platform or as a company, that doesn’t
remind me that “banal mediocrity” is apparently the
highest accolade one can aspire to at that particular organization."
Scalzi has never heard of Hiphop, Thrift, or Haystack. He hasn't heard about them because he is not really capable of understanding the technical problems involved with doing something as hard as Facebook.
It is really hard to make something look this easy.
First, he wasn't calling the people who work at Facebook stupid. Second, I have no idea how smart John Scalzi is... and you probably don't either.
He was criticizing the idea of Facebook. Facebook is a very well implemented system. But that doesn't mean that you can't question the validity of the system. Just because it's hard to build doesn't mean that it is worthwhile to use.
Also the fact that Facebook have made accessing vast amounts of information, organising events, and communicating far more simple and intuitive than any system previously available. Much as there are things to improve - there is no place on the internet better suited as a portal to your life.
See, parent and those who agree with him don't think this article adds much to any discussion either. If you don't enjoy finding out what your friends are up to, fine, introverts aren't exactly the world's latest discovery. Author probably carries his phone out of a sense of social obligation too. Can we get over this elitist Facebashing and move on, please?
Wait, don't people do this anymore? Oh no, am I the last person to handroll html code and upload it using UNIX commands? I just typed "scp" the other day. I should have charged myself admission to an internet museum where I was on display.
I send all my mail through raw, unadulterated, hand-typed SMTP. I compute mime attachments on my TI-85 and type them in on my clicky keyboard. I've taught my parrot to simulate the first 8 seconds of a fax machine handshake, and yet, without facebook, nobody would know!
I found his stance to be quite smug but he got his opinions across. I agree with him that it helps the 'normal' people interact with each other without jumping through loops but I think that is more a benefit than a critique.
Facebook is top dog right now, so I get that every highly intelligent hacker out there is going to take their potshots at it. I think everyone needs to take a step back and seriously thank Facebook, Myspace, AOL, etc. Why? Because they got normal people to use the internet. Grandma is now a customer for us hackers thanks to Mark Zuckerberg. We can all remember a time when the internet was our personal nerd playground, and yes it was awesome; but it wasn't very profitable. Now, everyone and their mother is on the internet, and their chosen platform of choice right now is Facebook. Yes, things have been dumbed down, yes privacy isn't what it used to be, but us geeks are now pulling down 6 figure salaries for doing the same stuff we'd be doing for fun in our free time anyways. We can't have our cake and eat it too..
Yes MySpace was created by marketing people, but that's the reason for both its initial rise and ultimate stagnation. Marketing people think "features" is the name of the game. Zuckerberg, like a good nerd, had the understanding that "platform" is really the name of the game.
Plus Zuckerberg's massive anti-privacy bias caused him to push the product in the right (superior product/market fit) direction in the face of significant user complaints (i.e. beacon).
And the speed at which facebook has been able to re-invent itself multiple times (e.g. platformization and twitterization) has been very impressive.
Exactly. "PR and faffery" are the secret sauce that will make or break your business. You can have the best product in the world, but without "PR and faffery" you will never get beyond a handful of early adopters. More than that, any site that looks like it has become successful without "PR and faffery" has just done the "PR and faffery" in a subtle way so that it looks like it has not happened!
As time passes, and the users of the internet get more sophisticated, this wont seem so much like a rant, it'll seem like an opportunity for the next social networking phenomenon. The thing that replaces Facebook wont look much like Facebook. It will need to cater to what today seems like the power user.
You think the users of the internet are getting more sophisticated? I'd say the users of the internet are getting less sophisticated. In the 1970s nobody without a PhD used the internet. In the early 90s you still needed a helluva lot of technical skill. In the late 90s the internet was still a bit geeky. Nowadays everybody and everything is on the internet and we've gone from Eternal September to.... some more extreme version of Eternal September (I'm tempted to say Eternal April, but that would entirely destroy the point of the metaphor).
Counterpoint: In the 1970's software engineering wasn't a common major, or career path. Back then, you had to have a PhD because the building blocks of the internet, and microcomputing were still being developed. Since then, the amount of people who actually know how the internet works (or have a PC in the house) has exploded. A simple comparison of graduates in technology from the 70's to now would tell the story. The older generation didn't grow up with this stuff in their houses and schools (at least my parents didn't). As time passes, that will not be the case. We have a whole generation of kids who are growing up with the internet fairly mature. I have to think that will drive a more sophisticated user base. Maybe I'm just an optimist.
Just because things get simpler to use doesn't mean they are less sophisticated.
But that's true of every maturing technology. People who owned cars in the early 1900s had to be able to fix them - they broke down constantly. A hundred years later how many people can do repair work on their own car? I've owned a car for ten years and it's never broken down.
Everything is getting more and more simple, isnt that good?
Lots of ranting towards Facebook here of late, I must say.
Facebook is a great way of telling your friends that HTML5 has got a logo, for example. Also, this way your friends that arent on sites like linkedin will get an idea of what you're up to.
I'm sure people who are interested in programming and building webpages will go their own way in the end anyway.
Maybe I misunderstood this article and the previous about Facebook rants, in that case I apologize.
I don't get this Facebook rage every year. Last year it was about the open social graph API and the third-party like buttons. Everyone was mad at Facebook. Calls for boycotts, mainstream press picking it up, Diaspora, etc.
Then it dies down and everybody seems happy about Facebook.
Until a year later, HN is full of hate-posts again. So, if history is to repeat itself, I'd say that the hate will have died down by June and I'll get my hate-blogpost ready for next year, having missed this years Facebook-hating-season
I don't think its all in vain. Each hate-cycle creates some residual hostility towards facebook. When eventually it crosses threshold (and some better option is available), so many people might jump the ship in a short time.
More and more I find that for people I see in real life facebook has become fairly redundant. And facebook has just clarified the reason that I don't see most of my other 'friends' in real life; I'm not really friends with them anymore.
Some time ago, a friend of mine told me that he had a great idea, something like Facebook, but, you know, for the "geeks" and all ze teknischen peepers, blogging, photo sharing, video, everything. At that point, it had simply occurred to me a very simple (and obvious) question: "Well, isn't that exactly the world wide web?"
Facebook is not made for smart people. It's not made for the readers of Hacker News, this guy's blog, or even the throngs on Reddit. It's made for everyone else. I work in a place with some people who will work/have worked minimum wage jobs their whole life (not that there's anything wrong with that). But these same people are on the internet all the time, and you know what they do? Check facebook. Facebook chat. Look through facebook pictures. Maybe browse craigslist for a few minutes looking for a used car or a new job. But 95% of the time? Facebook. I'm not saying this type of person represents the majority of facebook users, but it is this type of internet "familiarity", for lack of a better word, that makes up the majority of facebook users, and the world's population.
I strongly disagree with this. I might read HN and reddit for programming stories all day long but I still find Facebook immensely useful for keeping in contact with friends and contacts. I don't see at all how these things are mutually exclusive.
It's made for people who want to connect to other people. Intelligence has nothing to do with it.
Geeks are just angry because there is now more regular people using the internet than geeks. It's no longer restricted to the elites. As a business idea, it just makes much more sense to target the 80% of society instead of the 20%. (Made up numbers)
We had a stream of google-sucks/googles-dead kinda articles everyday just before while now. And now, suddenly all the bad attention turns to facebook since about a week.
I mean facebook had the same UI/policies/uglyness since quite some time, why sudden surge of facebook-bashing articles (followed by google)? I wonder how much of the content from above articles was written genuinely and not with alterior motives.
Sounds like he uses Facebook mainly to stay in contact with his friends but hates that Facebook doesn't do everything he needs. Facebook doesn't have to do that and the rest of the internet is still there.