Every Butt A Billboard Dept.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2013-04-05 14:00:00 No comments

Picture this. It's 1956, and the two most common ways to get a message to someone not in the same room as you is to either pick up a phone or write a letter.

Now imagine someone saying, "Hey, we could finance a whole alternate postal system by selling advertising on envelopes and letterhead!".

I suspect the only reason such a thing didn't happen was because a) most people at the time were perfectly comfortable with paying a few cents for a postage stamp and b) no one was ornery enough to actually try implementing this idea. (If such a thing did happen and I somehow missed it, I'd love to know about it. I can't imagine it having made much of a dent.)

But is this not, in effect, what we have done with the Internet? Two of the most common ways to talk to someone else on the 'Net, Facebook and Twitter, are nothing more than thinly-disgused advertising systems. Worse, no one seems to care.

Even worse, if you do pay them money to use the system, they're not charging you for the convenience of getting rid of ads -- rather, they charge you for the privilege of being advertising. If that's not an indictment of the values of such systems, I don't know what is.

I don't dislike Twitter because of the 140-character limit, and I don't dislike Facebook because of the "Poke" feature or the subtly disturbing fact that you can never really delete private messages, you can only just archive them. [Turns out you can do this; it's just very buried. Thanks to those who pointed it out.] Okay, I do dislike it for that, but what I find far worse is the fact that neither of those platforms really have my best interests at heart.

I do not own them. Moreover, I do not even own anything I put into them. I don't even really have that much control over what I put into them, either. My website may run on someone's hosting, but it is mine; I can move it to another host if I don't like the way they do business, or buy my own VPS if it comes to that (and again, even there, I have a choice of infrastructure providers). I have my choice of blogging software, of look-and-feel, of any number of things that I never have and never will with those other platforms. Most importantly, the relationship between me and my hosting provider is wholly aboveboard. I give them money; they give me hosting; that's all there is. There is never any question that I am in as close to total control as it gets in this life.

Most people don't care about such things, and I can understand why. They just want to get the message out however they can, and FB and Twitter are the easy ways to do that. I agree, which is why I use those platforms only just enough to get the message out and no more than that whenever I can help it. I honestly can't criticize those folks too much, given that their priorities are different, which is why I don't harangue them for being dim little tools for succumbing to peer pressure, etc, even when preserving privacy amounts to delayed gratification (as someone else pointed out).

I just want people to understand why I have the priorities I do. I know I don't feel remotely comfortable building infrastructure on top of something that cannot in any way ever be truly mine, that was designed to use me as a product, that I cannot even pay to ameliorate the worst features of (such are the wages of "free"), and that goes to greath lengths to obscure all this under the guise of being my friendly ol' social palsy-walsy whatever.

Tags: Facebook Internet Twitter advertising technology