I have been thinking a lot about the way the internet works now, primarily with social networks and advertising.
There is a tremendous amount of articles, videos and discussions on these topics, so this post will first start with a (constantly updated) list of resources I recommend reading and watching. Eventually I’ll expand on each of these topics into separate posts (and I’ll update this post with more links).
There is a great documentary, that for some reason, did not get the attention it deserves. It’s called Terms and Conditions May Apply and it was released back in 2013. The movie has a great intro that explains in a very smart way the issues we face online, with advertising, large social networks and platforms that live and breathe from our data.
You can watch the trailer and intro for the documentary below:
Last week I discovered this great article on Hacker News, talking about all the data points that Facebook collects. It’s called “What should you think about when using Facebook?“, written by Vicki Boykis, a data scientist that is worth following.
She pointed out some great findings and raised very important questions and recommendations. I like her approach of explaining things in a very simple way, while supporting her statements by data research and external resources. I particularly found very interesting to be exposed to Facebook’s own research department and website. In her article, Vicky links to a research paper that I found fascinating – The Social Ties of Immigrant Communities in the United States.
In another scope, I think its interesting to read some discussions and debates that are slowly emerging around Facebook and other social networks when it comes to publishing and owning data. There is a healthy and on-going debate about the threat these platforms bring to the open web.
Facebook is not unique in this realm, but it certainly is one of the main drivers. I’ve been also thinking about the impact of “walled garden” and closed environments and platforms such as WhatsApp, Snapchat, Slack, Telegram, Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), Chatbots, AI assistants and more.
There is a lot to think and comment here, but just in terms of content creation and distribution, I can point to two very recent and related articles about the nature of Facebook’s experience. One by Dave Winer, and a follow up by John Gruber on Daring Fireball.
I am not alone when I think we need more alternatives to the ubiquitousness power of Facebook on the web. I think it also brings a broader debate about what is tolerable and acceptable for the web when we talk about advertising, tracking and privacy.
I believe its safe to say we reached a breaking point for these discussions to occur and it’s interesting to see how these issues and debates will evolve over time. I’ll be there watching and contributing.