If you live on Facebook, your world is getting smaller.
Facebook is currently piloting a new program that allows users to click “Add a Link” when posting status updates (for now, on iPhone only). The results returned are from the Facebook ecosystem. You’ll see only articles that have been already shared on Facebook. If it hasn’t been previously mentioned or shared then it won’t appear as something you can also pass on. In this world Google (and Bing) do not exist.
While it remains to be seen if the option will stick, and make it into production, the trend of Facebook extending its walls is something that warrants attention.
Yes, it’s easy enough for us to open a Google search tab, and, boom, the world’s our oyster. Let the information flow. But, I’m guessing a lot of hardcore Facebook users–those who spend long hours everyday on the site–might not make the effort. They could possibly miss a lot of important news, key sources of information.
There is a precedent.
With “Add a Link” and the shutting out of external services, Facebook is merely experimenting with ideas and a philosophy that is occasionally troubling. Recently, it was automatically opening Facebook links to web sites using its own, stripped down browser. That option could be disabled with a click under settings (Unchecking “Always open links with external browser”).
If, indeed, Mark Zuckerberg wants to connect the world, and to connect people, you might suspect that by opening, not closing, channels to more information and opportunities to learn through whatever available sources exist, wherever they may come from, Facebook owned or not, would be the truthful way forward.
I suppose fair is fair. The rest of the world doesn’t have a monopoly on promoting their own services. And, regardless of what Facebook does, on my browser Google will always be close by on a tab, as will Google News, Calendar, and Gmail.
Forcing users into a walled garden is commonplace. Apple does it with iTunes. Google too, with the Google Store. Amazon does it with… Amazon.
So it’s not surprising Facebook would do the same thing (remember the Facebook Home app a few years back for Android?). What irks me is the marketing-speak. Yes, we know Facebook is on a mission to save the world. But wouldn’t it be refreshing, just for once, if Mark, or anyone on his team, stood up and said, why, yes we are competitive mofos, we want to make loads of cash, we love advertising, we want you to spend every idle moment of your daily lives on Facebook, we want you to click on everything, watch lots of viral videos, and did we mention, we love advertising? Yes, we will connect the world. Bring people together. Shiny. Happy. People. But it will all happen in Facebook World. (truth be told).
Or, maybe they could just downplay the save-the-world mantra a bit.