Goodbye, Facebook

May 2010

We’re done here. Five years after signing up for an account, I am quitting The Facebook. When I first filled in the profile information about my favorite books, movies, and music, it never occurred to me that this information would one day be made publicly accessible (without any option to make it private), not to mention fed in bulk to advertisers on the site. I’m pretty sure that five years ago, that was not the intention of the site’s creators, but today it very clearly is. The service has changed, as have the costs and benefits associated with participating, and that calculus no longer makes sense for me.

That constant change has been perhaps the strongest reason for deleting my account. I don’t mean the much-aligned aesthetic changes, but rather the changes to what it means to have an account, to be in a network, to list an interest, to connect to another site. I’m not a Luddite by any stretch, but these changes are being made with Facebook’s interests and bottom line in mind, each one more and more clearly aimed at that end. This is certainly their prerogative, but it’s no longer something I wish to be a part of. The changes are not making the world or the web a better place.

Yesterday at Google I/O, Dewitt Clinton said he would far rather have a federated network of a million tiny social networks rather than one with a billion users. Others on the panel drew parallels to the days when you could only email someone if they were “in your network” - in the literal sense. The implication, of course, was that Google is moving forward with the tools that will make cross-network communication as seamless as emailing between Gmail and Hotmail is today. Given that these are Google employees talking, he statement obviously has to be taken with a grain of salt. However, the argument is still strong and I do see this happening in the next five years.

Later tonight I’ll be deleting - not deactivating - my Facebook account. There’s a bit of irony, of course, in that I’m posting this one last item to Facebook, but it seemed like a good way to maybe encourage some others to take the same step. I’m taking one thing with me before I go, though - my content. Abandoning five years’ worth of content was probably the biggest thing that kept me from doing this sooner. Luckily Facebook’s Graph API makes it very easy to grab everything that you’ve put on the site in a structured way, and I’ll be doing this shortly. I’m not sure exactly what I’ll do with it yet, but I do know that I want it to live some place where I’m in control.