What makes the cover of a Time Magazine have longed been a cherished tradition of speculation by readers the world over. Like the old refrain from the song "New York": "if you can make it there - you can make it anywhere." Of recent date, the two major social networks of the day have taken center stage on those covers -one lauded for how it changed the way we communicate, while the other critiqued for perhaps pushing that communication too far.
Almost one year to the day, Twitter graced the cover of Time in its June 15, 2009 issue. On May 31, 2010, Facebook will soon be given that same prestigious honor.
Ev Williams & Biz Stone"How Twitter Will Change The Way We Live," was Robyn Twomey's treatise as to how (what was once considered) a fad became the microblogging platform that blossomed into a powerful communication tool - due to the foresight and ingenuity of its founders. What Twomey refers to as the "Open Conversation" was a 'good thing' because as the world soon learned - by "injecting Twitter into the conversation changes the rules of engagement."
Referring to a number of examples, her position was supported by the numbers of "layers of discussion" that can reach a broader audience in real-time, This allows not only an immediate spotlight, but also an "afterlife on the Web." Twomey says, "yes, it was built entirely out of 140-character messages, but the sum total of those tweets added up to something truly substantive, like a suspension bridge made of pebbles."
Mark ZuckerbergNow fast forward one year, and when Time hits newsstands on May 31, Facebook will be front and center. However, in this social media go-around - now the analysis has shifted from the "Open Conversation" to "Open Graph." Considered to be 'redefining privacy,' Facebook has taken some harsh criticism by both the blogosphere and the traditional press. The subtitle of the Time article capsulizes how many of us size up the situation: "With nearly 500 million users, Facebook is connecting us in new (and scary) ways."
This social network analysis delivered by Dan Fletcher, at first glance appears not be as critical as some of the previous editiorials. But upon closer scutiny, the tone shifts. According to Fletcher, "Facebook is on the path of becoming the Web's sketchy Big Brother, sucking up our identities in a massive Borg Brain to slice, dice and categorize for advertisers."
A month ago, in "Facebook's 'Open Graph' Targets Google Ad Dollars," I elaborated on the motives behind Facebook's momentous launch of the now-infamous 'Open Graph'. My belief is that it's Facebook's intent to supersede Google as the preeminent ubiquitous force on the Web. "In essence, Zuckerberg and tech cognoscenti want to rule the Web… and seize the control of an online Advertising Empire." I noted.
Today, in the Wall Street Journal, Emily Steel and Jessica E. Vascellaro write, "Facebook, My Space and several other social-networking sites have been sending data to advertising companies that could be used to find customers' names and other personal details, despite promises they don't share information without consent."
The report goes on further to say that "Facebook went farther than other sites, in some cases signaling which user name or ID was clicking on the ad as well as the user name or ID of the page being viewed , (and) by seeing what ads a user clicked on, an advertiser could tell something about a user's interests."
So within one year, we have gone from "Open Conversations" to "Open Graph." Have we gone too far? While the Twitter approach, in my estimation has always been 'above board,' 'transparent' and 'honest,' I am suspect Facebook's ulterior motives are not as altruistic. Cloaked under the cover of "openness," the network is jockeying for much more. With almost a half a million folks in their lair, I think like the mobilization of a large military regime, their thinking has been motivated by power, greed and arrogance.
Yes, 'redefining privacy' will happen. The blogosphere has been writing about this for months. It will push beyond our current boundaries. But it shouldn't do so, solely based on the material gain of one company. With two shots at two covers of Time Magazine, my bets are still on Twitter driving the dialogue, and continuing taking the high road in building the trust of the 'wisdom of crowds' - much to the dismay of Facebook's 'wisdom of the few.'