The State of Facebook and The Social Web

The only real issue I have with facebook privacy was the bug with the chat and other people being able to access it. Apart from that, I’m happy with the controls that they offer, and I feel that there’s nothing wrong with the current setup.

I think the issue people have is more about how facebook appear to be able to change the rules at any point and make what you set to be private as public without really consulting you first. I think that should only really be the case when you first sign up, to have all your settings defaulted to public, but for current users it should be defaulted to private first and let the individual choose what they want to do.

The other issue is whether or not facebook are selling your private data to advertisers or not. This isn’t a huge concern since I never click on any ads anyway. But for some people it will be a bigger concern and it may be the principle rather than the actual data being sold that’s the main point of contention.

I highly doubt that 60% are considering quitting. It’s a huge number of people and I would suggest that even 10% is unlikely unless a massive wave of mainstream support for abandoning the site takes place.

It kind of makes me a bit despondent at the whole social web that this is even being talked about. People wouldn’t quit using email because there was a privacy scare so what does this say about facebook? Does it say that facebook really is a fad just like myspace and that social networking is never going to be actually important, and more than just a gimmick.

I’ve said before that I would try not to get involved in another gimmick social network after facebook, but I just feel like I won’t be able to stop myself when it comes down to it. We’re all going to drift from site to site and they’ll all get too bit and ruin what made them great. Sure, I like playing scrabble on Facebook, but I would still prefer facebook to be pure social networking, devoid of apps and extras which make the experience bloated and confusing.

Twitter in principle is a simple service, and that’s one reason why I like it so much. Will they continue to keep it simple or will they ruin it by incorporating too many features into it? I very much hope they don’t, or at least they continue to innovate, but in a way that doesn’t add unnecessary features to the site.

I’m a strong believer in dedicated websites and services for individual tasks being the right way to go about things. No one will doubt Youtube, Flickr, Google Docs in their effectiveness to provide a great service. Facebook does a lot of things, but do we really want to have everything in one place? Is it really good for the web as a whole? I don’t see how it is.

Facebook to me is a fun way to share quick anecdotes with friends, some quick family snaps that aren’t professional enough for flickr or quick videos I just want to share with specific people. I even use it to communicate with friends via message rather than use email because it’s more personal feeling and quite easy to use.

Stuff like that, facebook really excels at, but there’s no denying the fact that the site is more of a gimmick than actually useful. All of the things I do there I can do elsewhere in an equal or better way.

I hope facebook manages to reassure users about their privacy practices as I don’t think they quite deserve the level of mainstream criticism that they’ve received. I also hope they do a good job of not making the site any more convoluted as it currently is. I don’t want to leave, but it’s nice to know I have other options should it’s popularity deteriorate, and just to be safe, continue to have your own place online to share your opinions, like this place.

Whatever happens in the world of social media, I don’t think having your own blog will ever go out of vogue. Just like writing a diary, blogging (although the term may eventually change) is here to stay and it’s comforting to know.


Spotify Social: Useful or Intrusive?

Before I get to the new spotify social update, I should probably give a brief overview of what the service is if you haven’t yet heard of it. I’ve been a Spotify user for a while now and have loved it. It is fantastic at allowing you to experience a wide range of music that you typically wouldn’t buy but still want to check out, or try before purchasing. The business model of Spotify is a simple one. They have music from all the major labels. Basically all the music you could ever want (almost) is available and you can stream the entire song or album you want for free. The free service is ad supported. Whether or not you hear ads depends on if you have Spotify Free or Premium. With free you can access all the music but at lower bitrates and with ads. Premium lets you have offline playlists, mobile use on an iPhone, Android or Symbian device and also get music in the higher bitrates. Premium is in my opinion the ultimate for people who love to discover new music. For the price it’s hard to match and the experience is fantastic.

I should also mention that Spotify is available to download on Mac and Windows as well as the aforementioned mobile phones for premium subscribers. Also, if you’re wondering how you can get in on the action, you have two options. You can either purchase a premium account for one month at least in order to open an account. After the month, if you choose to cancel premium, your account will be reverted to a free one, and you will lose your ad-free and mobile privileges. This is what I did and still love it. The ads aren’t as intrusive as you would think and you can go through quite a few songs completely un-interrupted which is extremely nice for a free service.

The other way to get into Spotify is by having an existing premium user invite you. Premium users get two invites to send to their nearest and dearest. Two isn’t much so be careful to give it to someone you know is going to really make the most out of it. The chances are, you won’t have a friend with invites available, so you may have to settle for premium for at least a month, but it is absolutely worth it.

Spotify Social is the name of the recent update to their software which adds a whole host of social features such as profiles akin to and integrates the service with Facebook in a quite cool way. Now, if you’re anything like me, then you’ll be using Spotify to listen to music you wouldn’t normally listen to, so you may want to be selective about what you want people to see of your listening habits. By default, everything you do will be streamed to facebook which is incredibly intrusive. I’m all for Facebook integration but I hate when these apps take the control away from me and post stuff without my consent.

Thankfully you can turn this off quickly by clicking the cog icon in the people tab on the right, and then click disable automatic facebook posting. This will stop it from publishing every time you create or subscribe to a playlist, star a song and so on. I’m all for sharing a great song or playlist with friends, but only when I want to and have complete control over it. Those options are all there and work well. I just wish they had made the automatic publishing default to off, but that’s a small complaint to have in the grand scheme of things.

That is really the only part of the experience that does feel intrusive. Just make sure you toggle the playlists from public to private where applicable and think about what you really want people to be able to see. Overall, I have to say they they have done a mostly good job not being too intrusive and it does seem to me that this is the right direction for Spotify to go on. The real question is whether Apple are going to have a very similar iTunes based streaming music service based on LaLa which they bought a few months ago and have recently announced will soon close. Apple could very easily crush Spotify and that would be very sad to see. I hope the Stockholm based team can continue to really push the music industry forward with their innovative business model but I worry that Apple just has so much weight in the industry that it will be hard for them to continue to compete with them.

For right now though, Spotify is great and you should go and get yourself either a nice friend with an invite or a premium account and support those guys.