As an avid technology watcher, The Bear tracks a number of trends on the World Wide Web, observing how new services come into common usage and are integrated into our daily lives. One hot rising trend in recent years is “social networking,” exemplified by services such as MySpace, Orkut, LinkedIn, Facebook, Bebo, Twitter, and Google Buzz. It’s worthwhile to be cautious about participating in any of these services even while all your friends, family and associates are gleefully jumping aboard. Why the caution?

  • If you value your privacy, you should question how much these services care about protecting it.
  • The web has benefited from an “open source” philosophy of freely sharing code that others can build upon. These services are all privately owned and proprietary.
  • We should all be wary of “lock-in”: services that erect competitive walls and prevent easy migration into and out of their ecospheres.
  • If any single service becomes a de facto “standard” for cultural communication, how does that impact those who opt out, are left out, or are booted out?
  • In the unforeseen future, how will corporations be able to aggregate and profit from personal information submitted by users?

That said, it appears most social network developers do over time address failures in privacy protection, if only to defend their own reputations and keep users from jumping ship. And they add Applications Programming Interfaces (APIs) that permit other individuals and businesses to build innovative tools based on a core service’s functionality — a welcome step towards openness. Lock-in is somewhat mollified by cross-posting, so that personal messages on one service are automatically replicated to other competing services. (But you’ll still need to be a registered user of multiple services in order to amplify your message via cross-posting.) A dominant de facto “standard” allows a company to leverage its influence into other industries, reducing freedom by limiting choice in an otherwise open marketplace. Monopolies like Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office and Microsoft Internet Explorer don’t last forever, but they can dominate and terraform the landscape for decades. And the future? The future is unknowable, but we should agree now on one thing: that whatever profit corporations are able to monetize from their services should be equally beneficial to its members.

For several years, The Bear resisted participation in any of the major brand-name social network services… until they became irresistible. Late last year I joined Facebook in “Stealth Mode,” in order to participate in private group conversation with other family members. I will be watching closely to see how well Facebook is able to protect my identity and prevent others from finding me. (Take this as a personal challenge to find me on Facebook!)

And finally… just yesterday… Tame Bear joined Twitter, in order to promote the new ebook titled “Oceans: A Users Guide to the Multiverse”, written by Peter Oakley and published by Smashwords.com. So I am using both these services to accomplish specific objectives — communication with family, and ebook marketing. If I discover other ways these services are personally beneficial, you can be sure I will write about it here.

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2 Comments on Resistance Is Futile

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Pin-Stripe Twit, Tame Bear. Tame Bear said: has written: " Resistance Is Futile http://tinyurl.com/y6p9d36 " […]

  2. physician assistant says:

    Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

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