What's wrong with Facebook

Doc Searls is complaining that Facebook takes too much time. He's right.

Doc Searls is complaining that Facebook takes too much time. He's right. The problem is that Facebook is annoying because that's what works. Facebook's success depends on bothering you incessantly and creating things for you to do.

Developers have flocked to Facebook as a platform for new social applications because Facebook is incredibly viral--every time one of your friends adds an application, posts a message, or even sneezes you get a notification and if you accept, all your friends are likely to get an invitation to something as a result.

Remember that when we talk about something being "viral" we're comparing it to a life form that most of us would rather avoid. No one wants to be part of an influenza outbreak. Similarly, most of us would rather not get constant notifications about someone writing something on a superwall (whatever that is).

Jeremy Liew is writing about user generated structure. There are various ways users create structure: tagging, soliciting data in structured ways, and explicit meta data. Of these, tagging is the least intrusive, easiest to do, and most often gets done. Adding explicit meta data is hard and most users just won't do it.

What's this have to do with Facebook? A lot of what Facebook does is solicit structure and explicit meta data. The friend detail requests and confirmations are about adding meta data to the social Web of Facebook. Many applications on Facebook are doing the same thing.

I'd like to know what percentage of the links of the Facebook social network are annotated with data about the relationship. I suspect it's pretty low. People just won't take the time to structure data. Most of us have no innate desire to be life librarians--constantly arranging and sorting the data detritus of our existence.

Google has made a very good living by capitalizing on one small bit of organization that people on the Web create as a by-product of our activity: links. Long term success in creating meaning around social Webs will require similar attention to the structure that emerges from social activity--not nagging people about it.