Facebook: From Networking to Marketing

Facebook began at Harvard University and was soon opened up to all universities, university students and alumni. It was a wonderful networking tool for the academic community.

But it was not to remain so. As it’s income generating potential became known it’s creators positioned it as a marketing tool by opening it up to the whole world, making it just another MySpace, though perhaps more sophisticated and certainly with more business savvy.

The transformation from a networking site to a marketing site came with the policy of allowing others to run applications on top of Facebook, virtually selling you, your personal information, and your list of friends to outside marketers. Thousands of these applications have been implemented on Facebook.

Jennifer LaBorde, of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Advance Titan writes that ”Facebook applications disguise immoral advertising business”.

Between the Lines at ZDNet states that this can be “downright dangerous”.

The newest Facebook application that has raised the most concern is called Beacon and it will tell your friends what you buy online (and it automatically opts you into the application). Simon Barrett of Blogger News Network writes that privacy experts are concerned that Facebook may have crossed the line from being social to being invasive.

But perhaps more troubling are concerns raised by TechCrunch that Facebook is censoring search results for political reasons.

I remember when the Internet was non-commercial and primarily an academic network with public access via Freenets, such as the Cleveland Freenet, the world’s first Freenet, and the National Capital FreeNet of which I was ”one of the first information providers”, as organizations and individuals who provided information via the Freenets and Internet were then called. The Internet was very much a networking tool at that stage - for academics, public interest organizations and individuals.

I remember the concerns being raised when it was first proposed that commercial use of the Internet be allowed, because” in the beginning” business was not allowed on the Internet. As one who shared those concerns I was relieved to find that, for the most part, business use of the net has been positive, providing useful resources to the public and customers.

However concerns have been raised lately about the corporate interests that control the hardware networks that the Internet runs on favouring certain commercial users over the broader public interest. This is a concept known as net neutrality.

I use the Internet for social networking, primarily through mountain biking and photography sites that operate on a membership fee or donation funding basis.

This blog is on a commercial site, but there is no intrusion on the blog itself except for the compulsory task bar at the top. Though advertising options are made available that would provide revenue to me and the service owner (Google) I have not been required to have any advertising on my blog.

It would be nice to see a real social networking site for the academic community - universities, professors, students and alumni. It could be developed by the open software community, hosted co-operatively on the university networks and maintained by volunteers.

With Facebook the original purpose has become secondary to generating revenues for it’s owners. Facebook has become the worst of capitalism on the net and I call on all progressive Internet users to BOYCOTT FACEBOOK.

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