Last month I quit Facebook. Really, the full deal – complete account deletion – wiped clean. And I made a big deal about it, in multiple venues, including individual messages to all my friends and family. It was the right thing to do, and for the past month, my mental life has been a bit quieter.
But, when the factors leading to a decision change, one must re-evaluate the decision. That’s why some of my friends have started to see posts by me, and others have received invitations to connect, on Facebook. No, this is not the work of some “fake Chris LuVogt”, it’s really me.
Why the flip-flop? In short, three reasons:
1) Facebook changed their policies,
2) Yahoo Pulse launched, and
3) I am in the internet services business.
Facebook Policy Changes
Last month, FB made a major revamp of both privacy controls and privacy defaults. This was in large part due to pressure from industry leaders, Congress, and the press. My quitting was one drop in that tsunami. To be honest I didn’t think they had it in them, but I have to give them credit for doing the right thing. Sort of. To be honest, they pulled a typical “two steps backwards, one-and-a-half steps forward” move. By itself, the improvements were not enough to get me to rejoin, and I still don’t really trust them, but other factors came into play. The Electronic Frontier Foundation summed things up nicely – if you’re still a Facebook user, this is a must read: Facebook’s New Privacy Improvements Are a Positive Step, But There’s Still More Work to Be Done http://luvogt.com/x.pl?k=EB0144
Just recently, Yahoo launched a revamped social networking platform (called Pulse). To be honest, it is functionally very similar to Facebook, but with better privacy controls . But more importantly, it includes features that let you cross-post between the two networks, so that (at your discretion) a post you make on Facebook will show on Pulse, and vice-versa. [As a Yahoo employee, I invite you to give it a try – it’s pretty cool.] This marks a subtle change in how you can use Facebook – namely, it is now possible to use a non-Facebook client application (Pulse) to manage and view your Facebook stream. In other words, Facebook’s walled-garden is still walled, but the wall separating it from Yahoo has been largely broken down. And, more importantly, as an individual user, I am now able to use Facebook’s backend without contributing directly to their revenue stream (of course, I am contributing indirectly in a number of ways just by having an account and friends). This allows me to get many of the benefits of using FB, without leaving myself logged in and exposed to some of features FB has introduced that have me worried about my privacy.
I work as a minor thought leader at an large internet services company. As such, I have a responsibility to both keep abreast of developments in the industry, as well as support my company’s efforts (what some refer to as “eating your own dog food”). This, of course, was true when I first made my decision to quit, but at that time I felt the problems I had with FB outweighed this point. This balance has shifted now, and especially given the significance of the Facebook-Yahoo integration, I feel my obligation to have a working understanding of a frenemy’s product is even more important, and I cannot truly have a good understanding without actively using the product.
Ramping up Slowly
I enjoyed my vacation from Facebook too much to jump back in with both feet. One of the nice side-effects of my quitting is that I have re-examined how I use the service, and I’ll be slowly and carefully ramping up my usage and friends list over the coming months. If you’re a friend or colleague, you can look forward to invites from me on Facebook, Pulse, and/or LinkedIn.