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Elgan: Declare independence... from Facebook!

The revolution is here: How Google+ will free us from the tyranny of King Mark.

July 2, 2011 07:00 AM ET

Computerworld - The 4th of July is American Independence Day, and a perfect day to declare independence from Facebook.

Before the American Revolution, most colonists considered themselves British loyalists. But the growing conflict between colonies and crown revealed to Americans that the British monarchy was abusive and unwilling to give people control over their own lives.

You know, like Facebook.

We need another revolution. Facebook uses us to make gazillions of dollars, but doesn't give us the ability to control or even know exactly who we're communicating and sharing with.

What's wrong with Facebook?

Facebook has lots of little problems, and two big ones. The first big problem is that everyone you know is by default lumped into the same category: "Friend." It's like your spouse, niece, college buddy, BFF from high school, boss, grandma and former assistant are all in the same room. The things you would say to all of them are different from the things you would like to say to each of them individually, or in smaller groups.

It's impossible for most people to mentally consider such a wide grouping, so mistakes are made. When you call in sick and go to the beach, your boss sees the pictures you post. When your college buddy posts a picture of some drunken frat party from years ago, your mom sees it. When you post a lot of comments about some interest of yours, you annoy "friends" who don't share that interest.

Because "everybody" is too big a stream for anyone to deal with, Facebook filters your feed. Facebook actually stops most of your friends' status updates from showing up in your News Feed. Facebook uses a secret algorithm called EdgeRank to cut most of your connections without telling you. For most people, the majority of your "friends" don't ever see your status updates.

When you post a status update, you don't know who's not getting it. You can't know. Facebook believes it's none of your business who you're talking to. If you're a savvy user, you can go in and custom-tailor your incoming feed. But there's no way to know which minority of your "friends" sees what you post.

These two problems make Facebook feel oppressive. It's time for freedom.

Freedom of assembly

Google has tried several times to succeed in the social networking racket. Orkut, Wave and Buzz each took a completely different approach without huge success. But a new service called Google+ is a winner.

Google+ is dubbed a "project" by the search giant, rather than a product. And it's in the beta stage, available by invitation only. When Google opened up invitations this week, the service grew so fast that they had to shut off invitations. Google will soon allow invitations again. Expect to join before July is over.



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