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Tag Archives: freedom

DistressI’ll just leave this here…

I use Facebook. I avoided it for quite a few years because I felt I was doing fine on MySpace, but eventually I caved and made the move when the gravity of that situation became obvious. I came to prefer Facebook pretty quickly because it didn’t allow users to create their own hideous customized profiles with glitter and autoplaying music and all that other trash. Over the past couple of years, though, Facebook has made some really tragic design changes and business decisions that would spell trouble if anyone else could get their act together enough to threaten Facebook’s position as the most popular social network. And then there’s the stuff they’re doing that just plain scares me, and should scare you, too.

ImpossibleSocial Fixer is a browser extension which I’ve come to love because it lets you tweak Facebook to your liking. You can choose a theme (I like a dark gray one, easier one the eyes), filter out posts you don’t want to see (I hate sports but some of my friends post about it CONSTANTLY), and get a notice when someone unfriends you (kind of a no-brainer, why wouldn’t Facebook do this anyway?). Well, Facebook has decided to kill Social Fixer’s best features by threatening the author with legal action if he doesn’t gut the extension and make it pretty close to useless. He explains the situation here much better than I can.

Why’s that scare me? Because the guy obviously can’t fight a corporation and has no choice but to back down. That merely strengthens the beast and supports the notion that a company can control your internet experience by crying like a big baby and invoking America’s screwed up legal system. They can effectively hijack your browser to suit their needs, though maybe not in the way we all normally fear a browser hijacking. I choose to run Social Fixer and to adjust what I see in my browser when I visit Facebook. I also choose to run AdBlock to adjust what I don’t see in my browser, but that’s another story. What gives Facebook the right to control what I see by the time it’s left their servers and arrived on my property? Didn’t we settle this question already with VCRs? I’m pretty sure these days, people are recording broadcast television on DVRs and skipping all the commercials. That’s right, we control it once it’s on our devices. If your business model sucks so much that you can’t handle that, you need to rethink your business model.

TrollSomething that’s similarly scary is the general reaction to all this. When it first became evident that Facebook was screwing around with Social Fixer, I submitted the developer’s blog post to Slashdot and was surprised to find that it was accepted. Cool, right? Well, maybe not so much. Take a look at the comments and you’ll see a lot of support for… Facebook. That’s right, poor little Facebook is having its EULA/Terms stomped all over, Social Fixer should know better, and ads are awesome. I still can’t believe the reaction. There was a very poor showing for people who like to control what they see.

Facebook is far bigger than MySpace ever was and is now a contender in the global domination arena. As noted earlier, without some serious competition, they’ll be able to coast for quite a while, and there will be no threat of a MySpace-style failure. The Social Fixer debacle will have no effect on the greater Facebook narrative. The precedent I’m whining about has effectively been set and there will be tangible, long-lasting consequences. My point is that this is the bad ending. That happens sometimes. As far as Social Fixer goes, my opinion is that the author should post the source code on GitHub and/or CodePlex and call it quits. He’s not equipped to fight this crap and it’s not his fight, anyway. It’s everyone’s fight and we’ll have to deal with it at some point.