Facebook Rules the World. Or Maybe Not.

Remember when AOL and Time Warner were going to rule all of the internet and entertainment?

It didn’t quite work out that way.

John Naughton, writing at the London Observer, thinks that the Facebook furor shall pass.

He tracks the course of internet megalomania:

Here’s how it works. A smart entrepreneur – a Harvard dropout, say, or some guy who made a lot of money by selling off his last venture to some clueless multinational – starts up a web business which grows like crazy by attracting millions of subscribers who use its services for free. Pretty soon, it’s got 400 million of them and everyone is saying: “Wow! 400 million users! That must be good for something.”

Then several things happen. Firstly, the proprietor of the sensation du jour starts drinking the Kool-Aid and contracts the aforementioned megalomania. He begins to fantasise that he could own the whole internet. Secondly, thousands of other entrepreneurs think “Wow! He could own the whole internet. We need to make sure our stuff has hooks into his stuff. Otherwise, we’re toast.” And then the mainstream media, whose insights into this could be written in 96-point Helvetica bold on the back of a postage stamp, are going around saying, “Jeez, this stuff is the real deal. How do we get onside?”

He goes on to discuss the fuss over the Facebook “Like” button. As a Michael Arrington pointed out, this is not an altruistic feature:

One way to think of this, says a source with knowledge of the product, is this. Google spends billions of dollars indexing the web for their search engine. will get the web to index itself, exclusively for .

Yes, it’s a big idea. Or, as MG put it, the entire Internet will be turned into a tributary system for Facebook. And it all flows from a simple Like gesture, and a few other features we’ll be writing about shortly.

I’m not particular interested in being tributary for Facebook. As far as I am concerned, this is not about my sharing stuff with my Facebook friends (some of whom I have actually met!). It’s about Facebook’s collecting information.

And it can be spoofed. Arnab reports

Users can be tricked into “Like”ing pages they’re not at.

(A detailed description of how it works is at the site. Of course, we know that no one on the internet would ever spoof a link, no, no one.)

I view the usefulness of this to Facebook users with extreme skepticism. I don’t think it’s about indexing the web; it’s about persuading me to index myself.

I am also skeptical of Facebook’s eventual World Domination. Not too many years ago, My Space was going to dominate the world, and, before that, AOL.

As Mr. Naughton ends his article,

What’s comical about this stuff is not so much its implicit arrogance – the assumption that we all want to share using Facebook – as its historical naivety. The history of the web is littered with the whitened bones of enterprises that once dreamed of total control. So until the cure for megalomania is invented, the only known antidote is a mantra. Repeat after me: the net is bigger than any single enterprise. And nobody owns it.

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