More and more people are hating Facebook in increasingly effective ways, and for increasingly better reasons. Good times. Too bad it will probably do nothing to keep Facebook from transforming the internet into an unbearably bland prison-mall.
Just take the frenzy around the latest "Anti-Facebook," the Tampa-based startup Unthink, which announced a public beta today. Like the earlier anti-Facebook, Diaspora, which earned a New York Times profile last year after raising $100,000 on Kickstarter, the response to Unthink has been literally overwhelming. Unthink's website is currently over capacity, flooded by visitors desperate to escape Zuckerberg's grip.
Unthink is capitalizing on the well-founded fact that trusting Facebook with your privacy is as smart as trusting a hungry dog to guard a delicious Philly cheesesteak. Unthink's founder says she was inspired after being creeped out by Facebook's ever-changing terms-of-service. Thanks to $2.5 million in venture funding, Unthink has built a splashy website, on which it promises unparalleled privacy, a "social revolution" and "emancipation."
Unfortunately, Unthink's "social revolution" is suspiciously focused on the advertising side of things. Instead of using your personal information to target advertising like Facebook does, Unthink forces you to select a brand yourself to "sponsor" your profile. (Or pay $2/year to keep your profile advertisement-free.) I suppose this is less creepy, but it also smacks of a social media marketing experts' craven obsession with "brand engagement".
Privacy concerns have also motivated the heroic quest of a 24-year-old Austrian student named Max Schrems. He's launched a campaign in which thousands of Facebook users used obscure European data privacy laws to force the company to reveal the personal information kept on them. The requests have revealed (again) the startling breadth of our Facebook digital dossiers: Every single poke! Stuff you think has been deleted! And they've annoyed the hell out of Facebook, since the law requires them to send people's personal information on physical CDs. This has left Facebook less time to come up with more effective ways to ruin the internet.
Lately, the privacy issue has been joined by powerful criticism focusing on the way Facebook abuses our very identity. If Mark Zuckerberg had his way, every blog comment you leave, every song you listen to, every product you buy would be linked to your real name and Facebook profile, then broadcast to your friends so they could tailor their consuming habits appropriately (with helpful hints from increasingly efficient targeted advertising, of course.)
As Randi Zuckerberg, Mark's sister and Facebook's former marketing director, infamously said, "I think anonymity on the internet has to go away." You can't sell to people you don't know.
People have begun to realize they like a degree anonymity on the internet. 4chan founder Chris "Moot" Poole was the toast of internet town after he eloquently explained that Facebook's approach to identity as a single thing is "degrading our humanity." True identity is "prismatic," he said in a talk: We are different people in different contexts, and some things we just don't want attached to our real name. As if to prove Moot's point, a Honduran political blogger just publicly accused Facebook of endangering her by forcing her to prove her real identity or get kicked off. Google recently decided to allow pseudonyms on Google Plus, opposing itself to Facebook on the issue.
We're heartened by the apparent desire many have to dismantle the worst aspects of Facebook, and to create viable alternatives, even as Facebook colonizes every corner of the web. The murderous glint in the eye whenever fake rumors of Facebook's impending demise go viral is delightful. Of course, Facebook shows no real sign of decline, and the tech press continues to cheer every privacy-annihilating, identity-squashing Facebook update as another triumphant Mark Zuckerberg production.
We'd recommend hanging out on Twitter until this whole Facebook thing blows over.
[Image via Getty]