Doc Searls Doesn’t Want To Be A Zombie

    October 24, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

Amid a flood of Facebook invitations to be a friend, a zombie, a vampire, a hot potato tosser, and a question answerer, Searls has just said enough to the walled garden of social networking.

No one should blame him for not wanting to be a zombie; there are plenty of costume choices for a supreme geek like him.

Those zombie suggestions aren’t coming to him from Halloween fans, but as invitations on Facebook. Along with a host of other requests, Searls has found Facebook a little more time-consuming than he’d like:

The “friend request” list (top item to the left there) is one I’ve whittled down from a much higher number. If I could gang-whittle them, I might be more interested, but the routine still involves declining to check off which of many different ways I met somebody (”both owned the same dog”, “set up by a mutual ex-boss” or whatever), and other time-sucks. Not to mention that the site takes many seconds to load, or to bring up email, or whatever. At least for me.

Anyway, life’s too short, and this list of stuff is too long. If you’re waiting for me to respond to a poke or an invitation,or a burp or any of that other stuff, don’t hold your breath. Or take offense. I’ve got, forgive me, better things to do.

Searls also acknowledged in the comments he understood why Facebook makes people respond individually to each invitation: it’s all about data for advertising. He would prefer an option to avoid ads on Facebook entirely:

If Facebook drew a line in the sand now, and said “this is our base feature set”, and created a pro level that had no advertising, they’d not only make more money from more people, but would have real relationships with real “members”, and far better intelligence from, and about, those members as well.

But they’re an advertising company. We’re the product. The real customers are advertisers. And in the long run, that model is broken.

The problem we see with a pay model for a Facebook Pro would be its creation of another walled garden, an online model that sites like AOL and the New York Times have moved away from in recent times. Searls said such a walled garden has to sit on the Internet, without substituting for it.

For example, Facebook would have to make its email available for POP or IMAP clients, not just as a web-based service. Doing that takes eyeballs away from Facebook’s advertisers.

Considering the shifts sites have made to open up content and run an ad-supported revenue model, decisions that have to be making more money for those sites, we don’t see Facebook opening too much of itself as Searls suggested.