Thirteen years ago today I blogged about Google launching Open Social, an API that would allow developers to tap into multiple social networks at once. It was supposed to be an answer to Facebook (who then had opened up their platform silo for developers to build small applications (since removed as an option). The NYT called it Google ‘ganging up’ on Facebook, the ‘new kid on the block’ (FB became globally available to all in the fall of 2006).

Seeing that 2007 posting in my ‘on this blog today in…’ widget I was curious to see whatever happened to Open Social. After the launch in 2007, I don’t remember hearing much about it anymore.

Following the link to Google’s own page on Open Social now gets a 404 error message (which isn’t different from 2007 when I blogged it, because news leaked before the launch, so that page wasn’t active yet. In between today and today in 2007 it has been a working link for some years though as the Internet Archive can attest) Wikipedia has the story of the years in between in more detail. The Open Social standard saw it latest release in August 2013, and then development stopped.

By the end of 2014 it was all transferred to the W3C’s Social Activity, the Social Web Working Group, and the Social Interest Group. All those three are defunct now too (the interest group closed in 2016, the working group and activity early 2018).

Yet, the still remaining W3C Working Group page has a photo with a number of familiar faces: core members of the IndieWeb community. And the Working Group delivered in their 2014-2018 period of activity the W3C standard recommendations for all the major building blocks of the IndieWeb (Webmentions, Micropub, Microsub, Activitypub, IndieAuth). The W3C activity wound down and reduced to a single W3C IRC channel #social that sees little activity. The log files of #social are hosted on indieweb.org.

So here we are, thirteen years down the road. It’s not Google but IndieWeb-enabled websites like mine ‘ganging up on Facebook’ instead. 😉

Bookmarked Facebook says it may quit Europe over ban on sharing data with US (The Guardian)
Facebook has warned that it may pull out of Europe if the Irish data protection commissioner enforces a ban on sharing data with the US, after a landmark ruling by the European court of justice found in July that there were insufficient safeguards against snooping by US intelligence agencies.

Never issue a threat you’re not really willing to follow up on… FB says it might stop servicing EU citizens because it isn’t allowed to transfer their data to US servers over data protection concerns. To me it would seem good news if the FB data-kraken would withdraw its tentacles. It is also an open admission that they can’t provide their service if it is not tied to adtech and the rage-fed algorithmic timeline built on detailed data collection. Call it, I’d say.

Bookmarked Zuckerberg and Facebook Never Fail to Disappoint (nytimes.com)
He cannot hold on to such enormous power and avoid responsibility when things get tough.

Karen Swisher, in a NY Times column about the many troubling aspects of Facebook and Zuckerbergs centralised power, seeks a fitting metaphor for how he and FB behave regarding their responsibilities as a platform content distributor and editor and curator of that content. (FB should not be seen as a platform, until they have open API’s. That they removed FB apps and APIs over time is a sign they do not regard themselves as platform either, it’s just a convenient legal position to claim.)

She ends up with comparing Zuckerberg to a butcher disavowing responsibility for the meatproducts he sells, as most are made by others. Yes some meatproducts are rotten, but who is he to take people’s freedom to poison themselves, even he’d never eat it himself.

Jason Kottke lifts the metaphor out of Karen Swisher’s column and adds a very peculiar anecdote from 2011 when Zuckerberg only wanted to eat meat of animals killed by himself.

Bookmarked Only 9% of visitors give GDPR consent to be tracked (markosaric.com)
Privacy regulations such as the GDPR say that you need to seek permission from your website visitors before tracking them. Most GDPR consent banner implementations are deliberately engineered to be difficult to use and are full of dark patterns that are illegal according to the law..... If you implement a proper GDPR consent banner, a vast majority of visitors will most probably decline to give you consent. 91% to be exact out of 19,000 visitors in my study.

GDPR and adtech tracking cannot be reconciled, a point the bookmark below shows once more: 91% will not provide consent when given a clear unambiguous choice. GDPR enforcement needs a boost. So that adtech may die.

Marko Saric points to various options available to adtech users: targeted ads for consenting visitors only, showing ads just based on the page visited (as he says, “Google made their first billions that way“), use GDPR compliant statistics tools, and switch to more ethical monetisation methods. A likely result of publishers trying to get consent without offering a clear way to not opt-in (it’s not about opting-out, GDPR requires informed and unforced consent through opt-in, no consent is the default and may not impact service), while most websurfers don’t want to share their data, will mean blanket solutions like ad and tracker blocking by browsers as default. As Saric says most advertisers are very aware that visitors don’t want to be tracked, they might just be waiting to be actively stopped by GDPR enforcement and the cash stops coming in (FB e.g. has some $6 billion reasons every single month to continue tracking you).

(ht Peter O’Shaughnessy)

Last weekend I suspended my FB account. During the months of the pandemic I increasingly felt the irritation with FB build up again. Two years ago I deleted my previous Facebook account, after having stopped using it half a year before it. I did it then foremost to delete the existing history, and created a new account. I told myself it was the only way to connect to some people in my personal and professional network. That isn’t false, but it’s also not true in the sense that this is an overwhelming effect. FB is not without use, I’ve been able to keep up with the lives of various people I care about, and have been able to respond to their life events because it’s easy to share for them, and easy for me to respond on my own terms. That is a valuable human connection. Yet, when you’re having fun in a toxic swamp, you might be having fun, but you’re also still in a toxic swamp. I cherish the interaction with people around me, but rather do that in a pleasant environment which FB is most definitely not.

My original intention this weekend was to leave the account suspended for a few weeks to see how that felt and to maybe get back in later. I realised that that is basically to let the skin irritation of the toxic swamp fade away for a few days and then expose myself to a next batch of irritants.

Then today two things happened.

Om Malik wrote about FB’s toxicity as a company, and to vote with your feet. One vote in itself isn’t much. Yet “If you don’t make good use of your vote, you enable those who would … destroy what we value. Facebook is no different. You might be one person with just one account, but you are not powerless. Being a part of Mark Zuckerberg’s algorithmic empire is a choice. If you believe that Facebook is causing long-term damage to our society, and you don’t agree with their values or their approach to doing business, you can choose to leave.” He left FB half a year after me, but still maintained his Instagram and Whatsapp account. He’s ditching that now too, because of FB the company. He’s right. If you think you’re in a toxic swamp, why stay at all within its vicinity?

The second thing was that the mail man came. Bringing a lovely hand written note from Peter. With kind words about our friendship and how our blog writing and adjacent interaction crosses the ocean between us. His card was a great example of having fun outside of the toxic swamp. Not that I think that I should return to sending postcards only, it just points to the spectrum of other channels we have at our fingertips that aren’t FB.

So, like two years ago I deleted my FB account again today, and in 30 days it will be gone. FB is betting I will try to log in within that time. I know I won’t. Because unlike two years ago I have no hold-out reason left to go back into the toxic swamp. On top of that, if I did then I’d have to return here and eat my words 😉