Today, Facebook made a much waited for announcement about their entry into the geo-location game. They’ve announced Places, with a focus on finding friends, checking in and building stories. They’ve partnered up with other exsisting companies that already play a major role in geo-location, like Gowalla, Foursquare and Yelp. Should be nice, now Facebook pages will be able to be linked to their place. All mobile apps will be supported at launch (tonight 8/18/2010)(Blackberry, Android and iPhone.) Mark Zuckerberg still really seems to have no plan on how to monetize on it, but it seems like a good direction for the company to move in. In terms of privacy, check-ins are automatically set for ‘friends only’ & you can remove and check-in. “Here now” only appears after a check-in so you can decide whether to share that or not. Tagging only lets you tag your friends and notifies you whenever you’re tagged. You can always remove any tag.
I must say something about hugs. I can’t really buy into becoming a “fan” of hugs. First of all, it is too all-inclusive. Who would admit to not liking hugs? It’s like being a fan of winning World War II. Second, and my main gripe, is that it is not specific enough. Now if you are asking me if I am a fan of “Hugs from Morganna the Kissing Bandit in her heydey”, I would join yesterday. But “hugs” in general? What if I have a one of those blasted random erections and I am wearing sweat pants? Yeah like that has happened recently. Regardless, in the spirit of specificity and Facebook’s recent brave defense of Holocaust-denial groups, I created the “Clubbing Baby Leopard Seals Before Breakfast” page on Facebook. If you prefer clubbing a different breed of seals, or at different times of the day, make your own damn page. This isn’t for everyone.
I am also not a fan of “Keep Facebook Free” and let me explain. A couple months ago Fortune explained how “Facebook is Taking Over Our Lives” – notice the snazzy chart on the right. Apparently Facebook reached 150 million users faster than any other “technology” (as opposed something like Twinkies, which probably reach that many people a year). I like how the article just grazes the characteristic that separates Facebook from these other technologies – it is free. The iPod numbers impress me more – not only did sales take only two years less than a free product, but (a) an iPod requires a computer like Facebook, and (b) the bastards were and are still considerably overpriced. Here’s the clincher of the article (and a generally understood fact): Facebook has yet to turn a profit.
Here we are, almost 15 years after the start of the “dot-com bubble”, and the business model that depends on attracting users with free content and services is still broken. What a shocker. Regardless, Facebook users are worried about the invasion of privacy and potentially having to pay for a service that they currently obsess over for hours a week. Heaven forbid an advertisement “intrudes” on your precious newsfeed. I recently befriended the father of a friend who I had not contacted in over 20 years – would I have paid a couple bucks for that service? Of course. Here are some other services for which I would pay money:
Flickr (wow what a goldmine – Flickr members are nuts)
Twitter (OK not me personally, but everyone else it seems)
Rotten Tomatoes (before the apocalyptic redesign)
Anything I find cool and useful
Newspapers could have been saved by rebelliously bucking this trend early and simply selling subscriptions for digital content at a reasonable rate. I would have gladly paid less than $10 a month for a web version of all the newspapers in California, for example. Real journalists providing real reporting was quite a novelty back in the early days of the Internet. Mark Cuban touched on this a bit (and more) on his blog, so check it out. He may be a blowhard, but the guy is ingenious and a straight-shooter.
The bottom-line is, truly useful and meaningful products and services can not be free. You are going to pay for them eventually through inconvenience, intrusive advertising, or panty-raiding data mining. Remember the paranoid scenes in Minority Report where the billboards on the street loudly react to Tom Cruise with “Hey Bob, we know you like wearing women’s underwear you dug out of the dumpster behind Hooters. How about picking up some new ones at Victoria’s Secret? They don’t smell like got hot wings and shame.” Keeping up these expectations of free products and services is pushing our society in that direction. My argument is that Facebook should offer a subscription service that allows you to exempt you and your “artistic” upskirt images from being exploited by marketers and littered with advertising. It could be sold as a “Gold Club” or something with an equally exclusive sounding name. Otherwise, all the disclaimer pages in the world can not save you and your “hug” pages.
Today I got unceremoniously dropped as a friend from Facebook. I always wondered what would happen if I dropped someone. Would they be notified immediately? Would a little shock come through my keyboard as I dared to defy Facebook and its very reason for existence? Would the ex-friend be pissed? In real life you can just pull handy excuses out of your ass, which is made especially easy by the advent of the cellphone. “I changed phones and lost most of my numbers”, “my cellphone died”, “It fell off my belt and into the toilet, and I flushed unknowingly” or the classic: “looooong story”, as you pretend to strangle your mobile device.
On Facebook, you just drop them and that’s it. I guess I could send him a message, begging and pleading for an explanation. Why Rob – why do you forsake me? How can I make it up to you? Please just tell me. Before you completely disown me, I desperately need to know if our astrological signs destined our friendship to fail. Are we “like” the same person? I’m so sorry I didn’t take any one of the many quizzes you sent. I promise if you befriend me you will know everything about me, from “25 Random Things” to “Which
Dog Anus do you resemble?”. I only have 13 friends – that’s barely a nuclear family nowadays. I can’t afford to lose you. I remember when you first tracked me down, I thought “I gawddamn despised my last two years of high school in a new town, and who the hell is this Rob guy?”. I can almost hear the movie trailer narrator now: “He took a chance on a guy he vaguely remembered, much less gave a rat’s ass about. Be prepared to laugh and cry as you struggle to remember people you barely knew twenty years ago in ‘Facebook – The Movie’ – coming this March!”.
I’m sorry we don’t have the same political opinions – damn the 39% of my soul that could be categorized as liberal! Next time, we can have a cordial discussion about which regional BBQ is the best (Texas? Me too!) and how many gallons is too gawdy for a hat size. I believed that fb was a good venue for discussing contrasting viewpoints on politics. I was wrong. I am finally ready to admit that Obama is the worst ever after a mere month into his presidency. I yearn for your status as we speak – do you hate Mondays? Are you looking forward to better golf weather? Do you still hope that you don’t offend anyone with your conservative politics? Those little updates warmed my heart and tickled the funny bone of my soul. I heart you Rob – please come back to my virtual family.
Like everyone else with a mute button and/or a DVR, I avoid TV commercials at all costs. Generally, after all these years they continue to suckle at the teat of Pandering and Tedium. However, I admire creative advertising – even if I cannot relate. Case in point, this Burger King web campaign. Ditch your Facebook friends for a Whopper? Make it a 6-Dollar Burger and they are gonzo.
Burger King has a recent history of creative campaigns: the Xbox video games, the chicken slave, and the resurrection of the King in creepy stalker form.