You know, I never noticed how closely Facebook represents the ideal society where all people are connected by a wireless, open, yet secure and intelligent infrastructure of communication. Except it’s not. I’m not saying Zuckerberg is the problem. In fact, now I realize he isn’t. It’s natural human tendency to want to know anything and everything everyone thinks about you, then take absolute legal and physical control of it and use it to take advantage of everybody and ultimately screw over the world. What’s life without a little atrocity right? Put anyone in that CEO’s chair and they’ll do an equally crappy job. Then, you remember that Zuckerberg doesn’t owe you anything. His goal is to make money and he’s doing a pretty good job with that. The problem lies in the fact that Facebook is a centralized, greedy, selfish business. Business itself isn’t bad, but having a business take over and close off all communication in your life is outrageous. I’m writing this because Facebook is making their new Facebook Mail (read: FMail, or F-ail for short) and things are getting too awful to ignore.
First of all, let me clear this up: Facebook is not providing some kind of new revolutionary way of sorting/filtering email. They claim that they’re not providing just another email service, but they are either stupid or they are lying (at this point, either one is equally likely). Since people just stubbornly refuse to use desktop email clients with the W3-intended SMTP/IMAP Network-Server-Client model, Facebook is trying to revitalize email (for profit, no doubt). They’ll try to integrate emailing, text messaging and instant messaging but they will, without doubt, certainly fail with that. They are also planning to provide @facebook.com email addresses and that will certainly catch on. Facebook’s new email service will attract mostly people in the Age 10-24, technology-unfamiliar demographics of the population, all other things indiscriminate (I think). Facebook mail will be discouraged simply because using a Facebook email address is unprofessional, though this could easily change in the future.
Facebook mail will drastically increase the success of email marketing and email collaboration. This last conclusion is heavy with logic and evidence: First off, Facebook mail will appeal to people who are either too ignorant or too technologically-incompetent to successfully manage their email. Because Facebook mail will target directly people who do not check their email already, it will be very efficient in reintroducing email into the average consumer’s life. Moreover, this also means that Facebook mail will hurt Yahoo Mail most directly and Hotmail second. With any luck, both Yahoo mail and Hotmail will fail. This is very unlikely given that Yahoo mail still retains a large active subset of non-Facebook users. Gmail will most likely be unaffected as Gmail’s user base is much higher up on the technology-competency ladder. Second, Facebook claims that it will be able to successfully filter through commercial and personal emails. This filter will certainly fail in the short run. Also, there is a large chance that Facebook’s email filter will cause more problems than it solves in the long run. Because of this, email marketing will be more successful. Email collaboration may or may not be more successful. This is primarily because most emailing lists and email-based collaboration groups are NOT based in Facebook. This fact, however, reveals something much more frightening: Facebook’s new mail service will be a HUGE reason for organizations to move ALL their strategy and collaboration talk to Facebook, something that Facebook will like very much (control and profit) while the Internet community will ineffectively protest. Again, Facebook is attempting to gain control of yet another 2 monumental parts of your life: Your professional collaboration methods and your email. When Facebook eventually fails and shuts down, these 2 things will only add to the chaos and madness that will ensue.
This is a tangent, but the key to stopping spam is NOT filtering. In fact, it is much better to eradicate spam filtering altogether. So if this is true, why does spam filtering still exist? Well simply because spam filtering equals PROFIT. Advertisements about spam protection and email scanning generate HUGE divisions of revenue for online security companies. Spam and spam-filtering will always exist as long as it is profitable. It is still profitable. See the problem? Well that’s not the problem. Profit is the reason why spam-filtering EXISTS, not why it must be eradicated. The problem is that sometimes, good email gets blocked. Now, even the Facebook public-relations video about their new email service addresses this directly, albeit very lightly. This is most definitely NOT a light problem. Facebook says “But if your grandmother, who only uses email, sends you a message and it finds its way into the [spam] folder, you can always promote it into your inbox”. But people don’t check their spam folders. They never have and they never will. A spam filter can catch 100 spam emails but if it blocks even ONE legitimate message, it has failed it’s only purpose in life and should promptly and quietly tie heavy stones to its hands and drown itself in the nearest data-river. You might think that spam-filtering isn’t perfect and it will never be perfect, but we should accept it because it’s the best thing we have. This is exactly what Facebook, Yahoo and other spam providers WANT you to think. (Again, for the selfish reason of PROFIT) Spam filtering does not stop spam, it only holds it off. Here’s what they don’t want you to know: The US Federal Trade Commission’s CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 orders that all commercial emails and emailing lists MUST have a visible and obvious option to “to decline to receive further commercial electronic mail messages from the sender”. At the bottom of most commercial mail that you get, there will be a Unsubscribe link or an Opt-Out link that you can click to get yourself off of their lists. If you don’t click it, then they are legally ALLOWED to continue emailing you as they like. If the email does NOT have a unsubscribe/opt-out link or if it violates any of the other conditions of the CAN-SPAM Act, there is a government organization “to pursue law enforcement actions” against spammers. More info about that on FTC’s Website. Okay, back on subject.
I’m actually liking the fact that Facebook’s email service will get people to actually check their emails once in a while. For everything else, it just sucks more than before. This is impossible but an ideal communication infrastructure would be consciously built with the idea that it should be impossible for anyone to get data that you don’t want them to have. It’s not the scare that Zuckerberg or some random guy you’ll never meet can look through your *ahem* questionable picture. Rather, it’s this notion that once something goes on the Internet, it doesn’t come off. Diaspora’s pretty close to something idealistic like this. Much closer than Facebook in the decentralized-open-full-control-obsessively-secure-you-own-everything criteria, but we’ll see what happens.