It’s not about content being free or not, it’s about content existing or not. Can I point? No? Then it’s kinda not really there.
From the third of a three part series exploring what content publishing means in an age of publishing platforms (ie. iOS apps). I think it applies equally to content “published” on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
To a certain extent you can point to content on these platforms, but how long does that content exist? All those baby pictures that once had permanence in photo albums and shoeboxes, now only exist as long as it is useful for companies to sell your personal information to advertisers. I’ve long wondered to what capabilities someone like Facebook has for mining photos beyond the obvious EXIF data.
What happens when providing access to those photos costs Facebook more than you’re worth to advertisers? Think that doesn’t matter or isn’t likely to happen? A lot of people probably thought the same thing about Delicious.
Granted, a large portion of what we are creating and sharing today won’t ever be worth looking back at. But even so, I don’t think that means giving away our identities to whomever makes it most convenient.
And therein lies the rub – sharing baby pictures on Facebook is very convenient, not to mention a heck of a lot easier than setting up your own photo sharing system with restricted user access, commenting, sharing, etc.
(A quick aside: If there was an equivalent free, turnkey, self-hosted system, it would preclude such technical knowledge that 99.99% of people could never use it. And those that possessed the requisite knowledge would have to give up the easy Facebook integration that thousands of apps and websites provide.)
We as technologists, with an unreal access to computing power, have mostly failed to build systems and products that enable people to do what they want as simply as possible – and the companies that are doing the best job at that are making a killing in the marketplace.
Is a self-determined online identity even possible for the average person without the likes of Facebook and other third-party services? I don’t know, but I think it’s worth thinking about.