The coming downfall of Facebook?

I wrote a month back (or so) about how Fan pages were making Facebook worse. I didn’t know how right I could be. Someone posted this on Current Events on GameFAQs, and I felt that it is very interesting, so I feel it’s important enough to post here. Note that this was written by hatrickpatrick of CE.

I have a theory that Facebook is about to come crashing down because of a very stupid decision they made which sparked off a new trend that is literally just waiting to be exploited by advertisers. A “botnet” of sorts.

Facebook, several months ago, enabled what they describe as “Static FBML”. You wouldn’t know anything about this unless you maintain a group or page so I’m assuming a lot of people here wouldn’t necessarily know about it. But it effectively allows page owners to break with Facebook’s usual standardized page layout and insert their own code. FBML stands for Facebook Markup Language and it’s essentially HTML, but with a load of extra tags thrown in to deal with groups of fans, Facebook apps and functions, etc. And so begins the chaos.

One of the tags in FBML is <fb:fan></fb>. What this tag effectively does is allows the owner to make certain content “for fans only”. And ever since that tag was introduced virtually every page offering “Hilarious photo” or “The best comeback ever” or something like that is “you must become a fan to see the content”. So effectively you’re giving your stamp of approval to something and advertising it to your friends before you can even know if you approve of it or not. And another aspect of FBML is that page owners can now mimick the “commented or liked this” box below items, the blue bordered one you see below an item someone has commented on or liked. This effectively means that below the pic or whatever, they have added loads of fake lists of comments supposedly saying things like “OMG This is sooooooo funny!” But if you try to click on a username or a “Report” button it just leads to the URL /#. Ergo, they are all fake comments from fake people.

Now why would so many page owners do this, you ask? What’s in it for them?

If you notice, all of these pages are classed as “business” pages, even if they’re only showing you some convo between a guy and his girlfriend or a photo of a celebrity. And because of the appeal of their names, most of them now have 500,000+ fans. Pages can post comments which appear on all their fans’ walls, just like friends can. They can also create events and suggest that people add friends or become a fan of another page or join another group. And finally having added two and two together I did a quick Google search and came across hundreds of the following.

“Generic Facebook fan page for sale, already has 500,000 fans, can send messages, wall posts, and create events for your company or product!” And below this a ridiculous price tag for this perfectly placed publicity machine.

My prediction is that over the next few months, just like a silent botnet, like what people thought Conficker was going to do, all of these pages are going to be bought by corporations who will use them to sell their shit. The people who created them will walk away loaded and Facebook will become totally overrun and cluttered with spam and ads, and there’ll simply be too many people fans of too many groups to do anything about it, it’ll be far too late.

This, incidentally, is EXACTLY why everyone abandoned Bebo 2 years ago, which is now being closed down by AOL. They made a similar feature for businesses, loads of people created Bebo “channels” and then sold them, and we had ad ridden chaos for about 2 months until everyone said fuck this I’m off to Facebook.

So I implore you, if you value Facebook at all as a tool, don’t let this happen. Boycott the pages which make you become a fan before you can view them. Just don’t join them.

It may be too late to turn the tide unfortunately :(


~ by The Slurpee Man on April 16, 2010.

2 Responses to “The coming downfall of Facebook?”

  1. Hey there Slurpee Man,

    I think I have some good news for you. First, you don’t have to worry about FB getting overrun with faceless corporations who purchased pre-populated fan pages. Remember, there’s free choice. If the page is bullshit, no one will go there and someone’s efforts will be in vain. And if anyone stumbles on a “Become a fan to see the funniest thing ever” they can split and not become a fan. Free will.

    The businesses and bands and non-profits or whatever who will succeed on FB, or anywhere, will have to be authentic, provide content worth becoming a fan for, and ratchet down promotional BS. Survival of the fittest.

    What I like about FB is that there can be 400 million idiots there, but I only see my “friends” or messages from pages I’ve fanned. If any friend or fan page starts generating more noise and signal, I can hide them, and they’re gone. From the other 400 million I never hear a peep.

    A few factual errors:

    * FBML isn’t “essentially HTML” although, like HTML, it is a markup language. Here’s a page with all the FBML tags:
    You won’t see any HTML tags.

    * There’s no such tag as “fb:fan” – The tag you’re thinking of is “fb:visible-to-connection” that allows pages to show content bases on whether or not the visitor is a fan.

    * The features where you can add a comment box or a “like” link aren’t, to my knowledge, “fake” – it’s just functionality that allows users to make a comment or “like” something in a FB-type interface.

    I have a very active fan page on FB and enjoy having it. It’s authentic and useful, with a great group of fans. I am very familiar with Static FBML and your post title caught my eye. I couldn’t help but respond!

    Cheers, man.

  2. Oops! Meant “more noise THAN signal” :)

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