I love the Internet – I live and breathe it everyday. It is arguably the biggest triumph of this century – never before has so much information been so readily available, no to mention the ability to contact and converse with people from all over the world with in just a few mouse clicks.
So why is this current “social networking” trend pissing me off so much?
I realise that when you spend so much time on the ‘net, your life is basically out there for all to see – google my name and there is a shit load of stuff out there. THIS DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN USE IT FOR OWN DEVIOUS PURPOSES. Today, someone added my to their “trust” network on a site called Spock. From what I can gather (and I’m not sure – the details of the site are pretty thin) it scrapes the Internet for information about you and tries to build a profile of who you are associated with, what you do and how many porn sites you visit. What the fuck? If I wanted to all of my information on one site I would create some sort of webpage- Oh hang on, I ALREADY HAVE ONE. And guess what? The information on my website (let’s call it a blog) is the information that I WANT TO RELEASE. I mean seriously. So some muppet on a website makes a comment about you at some point and all of a sudden it is on an aggregation site for all of your other (probably legitimate) friends to see.
Of course, Spock isn’t the first website to try to cash in on utilising your information for their obvious financial gain (C’mon, you think they are doing this for fun? Web 2.0 isn’t about bringing people together anymore) – Facebook managed to see the dollar signs embedded in your personal information with Beacon. Why does Facebook or Spock think that have the right to analyse my shopping habits from other sites? Look, my hatred for Facebook is pretty well known – it does a brilliant job of allowing you to contact long lost school buddies, but that isn’t what it is being used for anymore, which brings my to the guts of this rant.
Take your mind back 18 months – blogs started to take off, flickr was starting become mainstream, Facebook was still limited to people at Harvard, people on the web, knew about the web – they were happier times. People were hungry for knowledge, there was exciting stuff happening, because a lot of the stuff that the average web developer uses everyday was bleeding edge. AJAX was impressive, we would marvel at the tech behind Meebo and would boggle our minds at Google ability to find us stuff and Techcrunch was actually relevent.
Now, it is all about how much angel funding you get on your second round of VC. Oh, what’s that? You’ve burnt the GDP of a small country on a free social network site that takes websites and translates them in to an ancient Hindu language? Oh, now your investors are asking for a return – advertising not working for you? Well go and sell some user data. Your users won’t mind, especially if they don’t know about it. For fuck’s sake. I’m not an economist, but last time I checked, you need a freaking revenue stream to make money. And if I have to hear about another startup that is counting on click-throughs to cover their $10,000 a month hosting bill, I’m going to hit someone – probably the person that is asking for it to be developed.
However! These leeches aren’t the solely responsible promoting the stereotype that skinning some tables based forums package, adding a rounded corner and gradient will make you a bazillion dollars – if people didn’t get sucked in to these sites, then these people would be pumping their business-plan creating time into something else – probably spam. Which brings me to the awful realisation that we, much like the way Viagra emails are an everyday part of ourlives, will just have to put up with this crap until the Internet self-implodes under the bloat of another loser posting a video diary to Seesmic under the misconception that anyone cares.
I for one, will be quite happy to un-subscribe from all this bullshit and get back to making sites that help people to makes their lives easier. Let’s bring the web back to the people, not to the wallets of fly-by-nighters that are just out to make a quick buck.