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<nettime> Jason Scott > FaceFacts

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                            ASCII by Jason Scott

   Jason Scott's Weblog

FaceFacts -- May 7, 2011

   Hello Jason,

   I've recently learned of your amazing archiving efforts and I wanted to
   thank you for all that you have done for the internet community. You've
   really got me thinking more than I had before about the fragile nature
   of personal data and indeed so much of the personal expression ordinary
   people output every day.

   To that end, I wanted to ask you about Facebook.

   As Facebook matures, and presuming it remains the dominant social
   platform of its type for at least another five years, there are going
   to be many people who will have died after creating an account (I had a
   friend die aged just 20 last year and her Facebook has
   been instrumental in helping her friends and family, some scattered
   across many miles, come to terms with her passing. It has also provided
   us with a digital memory of her, but I now realise how fragile that
   memory is.) While Facebook offer memorial sites right now [which is of
   course better than their previous offer of deletion], what happens when
   Facebook is no longer active? Facebook, to me, would seem to be a
   harder than normal site to archive, due to the crosslinking-dependantcy
   and fleeting comment nature of such a site. This site, much like the
   site you mentioned in your talk at the personal digital
   archiving conference, is full of emotional expression. However, I fear
   that a similar fate to those of so many other large hosting sites will
   befall Facebook when it becomes unwanted.

   What is your opinion regarding the longevity and challenge of archiving
   this internet behemoth?

   Thank you for taking the time to read this email,


Hey there, Nathanael.

Well, first, let's start with Facebook itself.

Facebook is the third of what is probably a quartet (or quintet) of the
destruction of the innocence of computing.  First was viruses, second
was malware, third is facebook. I suspect fourth will be related to
control of networking itself, and fifth will be licensing of high level
computer ability. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Facebook is a living computer nightmare.  Just as viruses took the
advantages of sharing information on floppies and modems and revealed a
devastating undercarriage to the whole process, making every computer
transaction suspect... and just as spyware/malware took advantage of
beautiful advances in computer strength and horsepower to turn your
beloved machine of expression into a gatling gun of misery and
assholery... Facebook now stands as taking over a decade and a half of
the dream of the World Wide Web and turning it into a miserable IT cube
farm of pseudo human interaction, a bastardized form of e-mail, of
mailing lists, of photo albums, of friendship. While I can't really
imply that it was going to be any other way, I can not sit by and act
like this whole turn of events hasn't resulted in an epidemic of ruin
that will have consequences far-reaching from anything related to

Each era of computing has had companies that rose above the others,
whose stratospheric rise in income and success and mindshare and
whatever else marketing fucktards want to call it turned heads. A
start-up goes from an eyebrow-raiser to a non-proper noun to a verb. A
million asshole salespeople and technological wannabes and pundits and
sniffing elites make the word longer, as in "like facebook". Something
is like facebook, does something like facebook, wants to be like
facebook, is like facebook but in some way different that somehow will
magically propel it in even farther, without realizing that under
contemporary situations, facebook is as high up as you want to go.

Microsoft did awful fucking things. I mean, all the time. Really awful
things. So did IBM, way back when. Compaq? Assholery. Sony? Doing ten
awful fucking things this morning before breakfast. Of course awful
things are on the agenda and the lifeblood of any firm so big that it
can affect law, affect standards, make millionaires just sucking under
its folding metal chair for breadcrumbs. Facebook is just doing it to

People aren't just eating Facebook's Shit Sherbet of overnight
upgrades, of lack of guarantees and standards, of enveloping tendrils
of web standard breaking. They are shoveling it down. They're grabbing
two crazy handfuls of Facebook every minute of every day when they're
not forced to walk down a hallway or look up from their phones or ipads
or laptops or consoles. They're grabbing buckets of Facebook and
finding ways to shove it down with one hand while pawing around for a
second bucket.  People have bought the fuck in.

Remember that week when Facebook decided which of your friends would
show up on your what's new thing? That was great. Remember a week or
two ago when they changed the behavior of the Enter key in text boxes?
Awesome. How about that nosebleed you got when they changed
privacy/information standards six different ways, trying them on like
new Malibu Stacy hats, as an audience ranging from barely literate
mouthbreathers to computer scientists got to experience One True
Rogering Of Personal Information. And there we all were! We wondered if
there was some sort of App we could install in Facebook to give us a
third bucket and arm to keep that Sherbet coming.

The old saw is that people don't understand that Facebook doesn't
consider the users their customers - they consider the advertisers
their customers. Make no mistake, this is true... but it implies that
Facebook takes some sort of benign "let's keep humming along and use
this big herd of moos to our advantage". But it doesn't. Facebook
actively and constantly changes up the game, makes things more
intrusive, couldn't give less of a shit about your identity, your
worth, your culture, your knowledge, your humanity, or even the
cohesive maintenance of what makes you you. Facebook couldn't care less
about you than if it was born in your lower intestine and ripped out of
you in the middle of the night.

I use Facebook every single day. Because of its disgust and distaste
for borders and stratum, I've gotten back in touch with some very
important folks in my past, and used Facebook to get information about
a variety of people and figures that are relevant to my work in history
and research. I can do this because Facebook lets you rip through
millions of profiles to spearfish just the knowledge you need, out of a
blazing torrent of intrusion and exposure, and grab the tailcoat of a
person's life and yank hard, real hard. I use Facebook, in other words,
like a search tool on human beings. For that, it is really great.

But the fact that anyone would put anything of any unique nature on
there, that matters to them, is beyond insanity - it's identity
suicide. It's like you are intentionally driving down the road of life,
ripping pages of your journal and photo albums, and tossing them out
the window. Good luck finding anything again. Good luck knowing in six
months, a year, something will even be findable. Try and communicate
with anyone using their designed-by-a-second-trimester-fetus "message"
system with any of the features from the last 30 years. Go back and try
and negotiate it for search and topic control and usefulness. No. Not
happening. Everything on Facebook is Now. Nothing, and I mean nothing
on Facebook is Then. Or even last month.

So asking me about the archiving-ness or containering or long-term
prospect of Facebook for anything, the answer is: none. None. Not a
whit or a jot or a tiddle. It is like an ever-burning fire of our
memories, gleefully growing as we toss endless amounts of information
and self and knowledge into it, only to have it added to columns of
advertiser-related facts we do not see and do not control and do not

As we watch this machine, this engine that runs on memories and
identity and watch it sell every last bit of us to anyone who will pay,
as it mulches under our self and our dreams and our ideas and turns
them into a grey miserable paste suitable for a side dish or the full
entree of the human online experience, I am sure many of us will say
it's no big deal. It should say something that in the face of this
situation, having watched what has happened, what has transpired and
likely will transpire, that I am not even trying. I'm not giving one
goddamned second of thought to extraction or archiving or longevity or
meaning. I can only hope that all the projects and processes and
memories and history that I am focusing on will make me happy in the
face of the colorless, null-void cloud of pre-collapsed galaxy that is
the Facebook Nebula.

Thanks for your question!

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