Why Facebook Is the Future

On Aug. 14 a computer hacker named Virgil Griffith unleashed a clever little program onto the Internet that he dubbed WikiScanner. It’s a simple application that trolls through the records of Wikipedia, the publicly editable Web-based encyclopedia, and checks on who is making changes to which entries. Sometimes it’s people who shouldn’t be. For example, WikiScanner turned up evidence that somebody from Wal-Mart had punched up Wal-Mart’s Wikipedia entry. Bad retail giant.

Whereas Google is a brilliant technological hack, Facebook is primarily a feat of social engineering. (It wouldn’t be a bad idea for Google to acquire Facebook, the way it snaffled YouTube, but it’s almost certainly too late in the day for that. Yahoo! offered a billion for Facebook last year and was rebuffed.) Facebook’s appeal is both obvious and rather subtle. It’s a website, but in a sense, it’s another version of the Internet itself: a Net within the Net, one that’s everything the larger Net is not. Facebook is cleanly designed and has a classy, upmarket feel to it–a whiff of the Ivy League still clings. People tend to use their real names on Facebook. They also declare their sex, age, whereabouts, romantic status and institutional affiliations. Identity is not a performance or a toy on Facebook; it is a fixed and orderly fact. Nobody does anything secretly: a news feed constantly updates your friends on your activities. On Facebook, everybody knows you’re a dog.
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1655722,00.html

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