It’s May 1st, 2018 and the once seemingly-unstoppable, mighty behemoth of online social, Facebook, is now a shell of a platform. Its founders, long cashed-out and hardly relevant in what is now known as the “Privacy-First” movement, Facebook lies amongst the corpses of GeoCities, MySpace, AOL and the more recently imploded Twitter and Google+.
While Mark Zuckerberg’s substantial wealth finds its way into dozens of startups through his formidable investment fund, he is regarded by many of today’s players as somewhat irrelevant, and his role in creating what is today seen as one of the most ethically corrupt platforms of our time, Facebook, is seen by some as a dubious honor. But Mark never meant any harm, you say? Of course, he didn’t! “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”, they scream from the choir. I hate that saying. I respected Zuckerberg’s intentions as I thought I understood them to be.
The corruption which brought down the mighty three (Facebook, Twitter & Google+) was built in from the beginning. It was part of their architecture and the very foundation upon which these products were built. The collection and exploitation of users’ personal information, user-generated content, “private” messages, and habits both on and off their own platforms, were so fundamental to their products, that there was always the possibility that the public would one day get wise and respond with a mass-exodus towards Privacy-First Products (PFP).
They said it would never happen… Indeed, they said that the masses would always sacrifice their privacy for convenience. Cue the data gold-rush! I recall so many founders back in 2014 trying to get rich with what they called the “data play.” Remember that? Give away the product, but we’ll have all that valuable user data to monetize… somehow.
The idea that you must sacrifice privacy for convenience is really a false dichotomy. It’s predicated upon the supposition that someone else knows better than you do what you need and when you need it, and to avail of their knowledge, you must let them into your life, not just superficially, but deeply… intimately… invasively… irrevocably.
We now know that convenience and privacy can coexist. Google almost had us convinced otherwise. Privacy just didn’t work with their model, nor with the agenda of the boards whose directors needed to keep shareholders’ metaphorical cocks hard. Twitter also had no shortage of user data, but with virtually no revenue, tried futilely to pivot into the PFP space. They, however, died even a quicker death than Facebook or Google+ as their corrupt foundation made it impossible to build a healthy structure. As users left, the stock dropped and the rest is history.
With the near total eradication of the traditional account/login/password system and the global adoption of Privacy First Products, most of which use anonymous login and validated proxies between individuals and their online identities, we are much better off today than our fellow netizens of just a few years ago. Not surprisingly, advertisers have adapted to the new landscape, and while employing less invasive tactics, have still managed to reach consumers, reap even greater profits, and not alienate those of us who feel antagonized by aggressive advertising.
Perhaps most importantly though, we are no longer as a society willfully aiding corporate giants in the perverse practice of profiting from mapping our social genome by collecting, archiving and analyzing our actively and passively generated content both in and out of context.
I don’t think I need to remind anyone how this data was used against us by those we thought were supposed to protect us.
Disclaimer: Waaaay back in 2013 I founded KwikDesk which was one of the early PFP startups ☺ I used Twitter and Facebook daily for years. If they were still around today I would use them to share this Medium post!