September 23, 2011, 7:57 AM — Facebook's F8 conference kicked off yesterday with Mark Zuckerberg's Keynote Address (if you missed it, you can watch an archive on the F8 Facebook page). I wanted to share my thoughts, but first I need you to picture me on my front porch, in my rocking chair, waving my cane.
I guess I'm just too old for Facebook, because what I saw I found vaguely horrifying (and I'm not just talking about the awkward and cringe-worthy intro by SNL's Andy Samberg imitating Zuckerberg, though that was truly awful). Essentially Facebook (unsurprisingly) wants you to live on their site and let them record everything about you. It's like The Truman Show has become real for each and every one of us.
Whenever I watch something like this keynote I at first get excited because I think the technology is pretty compelling. Once all these changes roll out you're going to be able to share your entire life with your friends. Examples included everything from music, movies, recipes, the path you take when going out for a run, the places you visit...everything! There's a place to record big events, like that trip to see the World's Largest Ball of Twine, and a place for little events, like tracking your bowel movements.
That's cool, right?! At least, I think it's cool.
Until I start to visualize this life I'll be leading where I have to stop every five minutes to enter what I'm doing into Facebook. Hey, I listened to this song! Oy! I walked my dog in that park! Then I came home and cooked up this dish! Then I watched that TV show.
I mean, granted this is fascinating stuff and I know my friends absolutely need to know it all, but it seems like it's going to be a real hassle to be entering all this data. It also seems, ironically, very antisocial. I do a lot of those things with another person...but rather than talking and sharing with her, I'll have my nose in my phone pecking at the keyboard to tell semi-strangers what's going on. Been to a bar lately? Look at any table of young people and at least one of them (and maybe all of them) will be staring down at their phones rather than talking to each other. (Did I just become a commercial for Windows Phone 7? Really?)
One of the big new changes are "Frictionless" updates in apps. The old slow way Facebook worked had an app — say a game where you pretend to run a farm — popping up an alert boxing asking you if you want to tell all your friends that you have extra radishes. If you have any kind of a conscience, you don't always say "Yes, please spam my friends with this incredibly important info." In fact I'm hoping that you say "No, don't send that." more often than you say yes. But that's going away with Frictionless updates. Instead, (after an initial approval) apps will be writing stuff to your wall silently and in the background. Don't worry, I'm sure they won't spam on your behalf.
Another big reveal was sharing music and videos on Facebook via just about every streaming music service, or in the case of video, Netflix and Hulu. Now I can understand sharing music this way, but videos? People really want to watch movies and TV shows in a window on their Facebook page? Here's where I really show my age; if I'm going to watch a movie on Netflix, I'm going to pipe it to the big screen in the living room and relax on the couch while I watch it, with a real live person sitting beside me. Of course this won't be an issue for us here in the US right away, since Netflix won't be on Facebook in the US due to an obscure law from 1988. (For more details on this, check out the Netflix blog.) Hulu doesn't seem as worried about that law, because they're live on Facebook. I tried it last night. And sure enough, I don't get why I'd want to watch Hulu on Facebook instead of Hulu on Hulu.
So yeah, a lot of what Zuckerberg is selling, I'm not buying, but I guess I'm not in the target demographic.
But beyond all the sharing of trivial life events, I am interested in looking at Facebook as a news consumption service. I don't want to tell my friends that I made chicken piccata last night, but I am liking some new apps like the one the Wall Street Journal recently rolled out. News Corps previously iPad-only publication The Daily is on there too.
But again there's a problem. Most of my Facebook friends don't actually have the same interests as me, so the social aspect of these news apps doesn't bring a lot to my table. What I'd like is for Facebook to allow "levels of friendship" so that I could connect with fellow tech enthusiasts who I may share interests with, but not much more. I could just "Friend" these kinds of people, but they really don't care about where I walked my dog, so I don't think that's the right way to go.
Of course I just realized that what I'm now describing is Google+. Which I suppose explains why I spend a lot of time on G+ and very little time on Facebook, and why I find myself having really interesting conversations on G+ whereas in Facebook I'm mostly just reading people's thoughts about themselves.
Anyway, I'll throw the ball into your court; here's your chance to tell the old guy how off-base he is, and how valuable the Open Graph is to you (I get how valuable it is for Facebook). Use the comment form!
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.