I quite enjoy impromptu battle with people getting furious over Facebook’s redesign on one side, and then there is the “hey, keep it cool man, like, change happens, y’know?” brigade who have set themselves up as the default voice of reason. I side more with the former than the latter, since there’s a difference between acceptance and acquiescence. The posture of the latter holds that we pay nothing for these online services, and basically falls in with the pre-digital mindset of “you’ll take what you’re given”, or “any colour as long as it’s #3B5998“. It is the position of the Dude, who just accepts what happens. By default, I am put in the position of Walter by those who are, like, way more chilled out about it all. Facebook abides, man.
Well, fine. I am he. But think about what exactly the dissatisfaction that people feel with these changes. It’s not simply a manifestation of chutzpah (as someone following in the footsteps of a convert to Judaism, I’m assuming I can say that now) for us to point out that all is not well.
The Dude: Walter…
Donny: They already posted it.
Walter Sobchak: Well they can *fucking unpost it*!
You know what, they can change Facebook, because we are what it runs on. It is of course not the case that we have paid for a service with cash, but do we think they are providing a service to us for free? Of course not, they get our time, they get our attention, and they get the revenue from every advertiser wanting to hit exactly the target-market that we represent.
This is the new logic of open source being brought to bear on ever more realms, and we need to expand our conceptual vocabulary accordingly. We no longer pay for services with money, but with our attention, with our time. That is as valuable as money, if not moreso, because in the murky world of Facebook’s revenue stream via ads, they can tell marketers that there is billions to be made in the upcoming world. In capital terms, Facebook is not worth anywhere near the numbers thrown about (such as $100bn), what is behind such fantasy figures is the concept of there being a social ecosystem which this website represents. Those billions that don’t come in via direct advertising are to be found right behind our eyeballs. Too right we can complain.
Finally, of course Facebook is going to listen and make more changes, because though Bebo and Myspace etc. are dead in the water, they died because they deserved to. They were no kind of a challenge. The situation we are in now is that Facebook is in the position of AOL, a stupid monopoly of closing off information. Creating a wall to keep information out equally keeps it in, and every information technology has proved that to be a foolhardy strategy in the long term (even the guilds only kept the print press out of Paris for 20 years). The prize of openness and market-share is Google’s to grab.