Peter M Howard ::

wintermute.com.au

On Facebook and Messaging

19November2010 [links]
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Good points from two sides of an argument:

Relatively soon, we’ll probably all stop using arbitrary ten digit numbers and bizarre sequences of characters to contact each other. We will just select friends by name and be able to share with them instantly. We aren’t there yet, but the changes today are a small first step.

Joel Seligstein in See the Messages that Matter

This solution doesn’t actually solve any user problem. Humans were successfully texting, IMing, and emailing each other, before SmartEngineer came along & decided to slam them all together into a mixed up mess, in the name of “abstracting away the transport.”

Ray Sun in Why Facebook badly needs Steve Jobs

I agree with neither of these two essays, but both present some really good points. There’s definitely a near-future in which we stop worrying about sequences of numbers and characters to contact people, but it could also be argued that that’s already the case: it’s been at least a couple of years since I’ve bothered to learn someone’s phone number or email address — my MacBook and iPhone take care of that for me. So I’m not sure Facebook’s approach offers a lot in contacting my friends. It does, potentially, offer a spam-free alternative to email, but we’re already starting to see some crazy scams happening even on Facebook (help, I’m stranded in London, wire me money) or LinkedIn (dodgy job offers from seemingly real people in one’s “network”), so I expect we’ll really just see a shift in the nature of the spam we get.

Separately though, it’s a terrifying thought that Facebook should become the repository of all my messaging. I can see my computer (or some iPad-like communications device) eventually performing that role, abstracting away any thought about how I’m messaging, but I don’t want those decisions made by Facebook, and I don’t want all that information available in a location with such a poor track record when it comes to privacy.

In short, Facebook’s new approach is built around some assumptions of how the future of messaging is going to look, but if the past is any indicator, we’re not going to get to the future because one company wants to take us there.