Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Facebook Sabotage and Meebo/Chat Reference Update

First up, Facebook. You know, there's a reason that big tech companies move from being beloved by the masses (like Google once was) to being seen as giant faceless money grabbers (as Microsoft is often portrayed). Often, that reason is that the company loses touch with its base. They start making decisions that benefit the company, and not the people who use the product. Or they go off in search of every way they can think of to make money. Or they start to use their customers as pawns in a game of corporate chess.

Facebook is a bit of an odd duck when it comes to this area. It seems to me that so many people use Facebook and love the service it provides, but they all simultaneously hate the choices Facebook makes to update that service. Some of this is due to the fact that people don't like it when things change and nothing noticeably improves. But a large part of this is Facebook's fault, as it makes changes to people's personal information without asking people's permission.

And of course it doesn't have to ask. I'm sure it's in their Terms of Use that they can do whatever they want to the information people post to Facebook. But just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. Facebook makes changes to its privacy settings, making some people's private things public unless the people opt out--as opposed to only changing those settings if people opt in. People want choice. The less choice you give them, the more they get annoyed. And if you force choices on them, it can get really nasty.

Why do I bring this up today? Because Facebook's done it again. It went through and changed the email address it displays for all its users, switching it from whatever people entered over to _________@facebook.com. This is tantamount to the phone book randomly assigning new phone numbers to the people in its pages. Why did Facebook do it? Supposedly to improve the privacy of its members. That's the cover story, at least--though you can't help but think that they did it because they've got this handy @facebook.com email platform hanging around, and it galls them that everyone's using gmail or hotmail or yahoo, instead.

People aren't happy, and justifiably so. (For more information about the details--and for how to undo the changes, check out this great TechCrunch article on the topic.)

And in other tech news, as seemed the case a few weeks ago when Google bought out Meebo, Meebo Chat is going the way of the Dodo. It will be no more in a few weeks. This means we need to come up with an alternative solution. Right now we're busy evaluating the many different options out there--and there are many--but rest assured, there will still be some sort of chat reference available on our site. We might have to take it down for a bit while we retool, but I'm trying to avoid that if possible. Stay tuned . . .

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