The Internet

Is Facebook the renaissance version of AOL?

Tiernan Ray wrote about Facebook and AOL sharing a “limited vision” last week:

There were just a couple problems with Facebook. Facebook was a lot like AOL. It limited people by telling them with whom they could communicate. And unlike AOL and Compuserve and Prodigy, people couldn’t just be any fun identity they wanted, like picklefinger0237. They had to present themselves as themselves because advertisers liked to know who was talking to whom.

Many people didn’t really mind that they were limited in whom they could talk to. They liked to “build their brand,” they said, by showing off pictures of themselves and talking a lot about themselves. Also, people felt it was fine because just like with AOL, they had a couple other options, including Pinterest and Twitter and LinkedIn and Instagram, and even a new thing called Snap, without the exclamation point. Those were like having Compuserve and Prodigy back in the day.

But a few people got concerned. They noticed that not only did Facebook and services like it limit who could talk, and to whom those people could talk. The concerned people noticed that the services manipulated how people talked to one another, with computer algorithms called “data voodoo dolls.” Even business people became alarmed. They said Facebook had “zucked” people by betraying people’s trust. 

I never used AOL but I know all about its notoriety. I used Facebook a lot until I deactivated my account (but how purposeful is that when I use WhatsApp and Instagram every day?). For me, it does have a “manipulative notion of human contact” as Tiernan suggested.

Also, something interesting I learnt about AOL: About 1.5 million people still pay for AOL — but now they get tech support and identity theft services instead of dial-up internet

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