Trusting the Giants

Locked doorI came across Jason Calacanis’ What I Learned from Zuckerberg’s Mistakes article recently–actually, a long sort of recently–and I’ve been thinking a lot about it. I’ve been trying to figure out how Facebook “fits” in my “onlineering”, and the article comes at a good time.

I’ve been online for a long time. I made my first website in 1998, and while I know there are lots more who have been in this industry for much longer, from high school is a long enough time for me. You might say that I had the best of both worlds–I experienced early adolescence without the Internet, but my late coming-of-age was influenced by it. I don’t trust the Internet, but at the same time I’m not fearful of it.

I realize though, that that’s pretty subjective.

For example–I wish I liked Facebook more than I do. A good number of my friends seem to swear by it, who are active on it, and seem to have vibrant Facebook-lives. I don’t, and I don’t think I can ever have one: I just don’t like Facebook.

The sheer power they have is amazing. The features, the experience, it’s all quite well done. The article above outlines their methodologies and practices. The movie The Social Network gives a glimpse at its beginnings.

But I don’t like them. I don’t trust them. It’s a mix of my perceptions of its founder (charismatic people can easily transform the people around them), the sheer scale of the service, and the past (and present) blunders they’ve had in handling user privacy. I dislike the fact that so many web accounts nowadays require you to sign up using your Facebook account (I’d usually just skip the websites in question).

But then, I do trust Yahoo!. A part of it is likely because I work in Yahoo! and I know first-hand the measures taken to protect users and their privacy. To be sure, sometimes I think, ugh, do we really need to go through all of these hoops? but I don’t worry that my data is being leaked on to other networks and websites and applications with Yahoo!. I don’t begrudge their mobility and flexibility–and it certainly sounds like an exciting place to work at, as a developer–but I’m very wary of them, as a consumer. (Sadly the people who are wary are in the minority.)

All that said, I find the juggle between fast-and-reckless and slow-but-safe interesting. There’s a fine line somewhere there; and as consumers it’s really just knowing how much you can handle in the features deficit and/or information slippage, and learning to live with that (or not at all).