Is Facebook repeating all of Friendster’s mistakes?

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

Queers are leaving Facebook:

If you haven’t heard of Ello before this week, you’re not alone. Just this morning my Facebook timeline blew up with friends offering invite codes for what I assumed was a new Gilt-like shopping site, and what turned out to be a new and friendlier social network, which would allow anyone who wanted to be a part of it be who they wanted to be, complete with the name they’ve chosen for themselves.

Ello’s uptick in popularity comes from Facebook’s new decree that everyone on the site must now use their real name. For some, like me, this isn’t a problem. I use my real name for everything (because I am fairly histrionic). For others, those who are better known by their drag names, those who are concerned about being stalked and those who don’t want to be found under their real name, this is a huge problem. Facebook claims that the new policy (which requires all users to register under the name which appears on their ID and not under GIRL YOULOOKINGFINE) is meant to keep the community safe, but The Daily Dot points out that it may also be a way for making performers migrate from personal profiles to fan pages in an effort to make more coin for the site’s already overflowing coffers.

In danah boyd’s detailed account of the decline and fall of Friendster, she points to the alienation of the queers as the tipping point that lead to Friendster’s collapse. She credits the queers with driving Friendster’s early growth, and then their withdrawal was the beginning of the big move to MySpace:

“Freaks, geeks and queers all invaded Friendster in the early days and they made certain that all of their friends were there. They did so organically in clusters. This was very successful, until they felt alienated from the site. There is a tipping point to get on and a tipping point to get off. Once mass departure began with a few pissed-off folks, it spiraled quickly. While the early adopters left storm-like, canceling their accounts, most users simply stopped logging in frequently because it was no longer the place where their friends were.”

later in the same essay:

“Friendster killed off anyone who didn’t conform to their standards, most notably Fakesters and those with more creative non-photorealistic profiles. When MySpace users didn’t conform, they were supported and recognized for their contributions to evolving the system. (Exceptions made for pornography, spammers, people using hate speech.) When Friendster was faltering because it was “uncool,” Friendster users did not stick up for the site. When MySpace began to falter over the predator crisis, many users got outraged at those attacking the system. They wrote supportive notes to Tom, made YouTube videos, wrote messages on their MySpaces. They didn’t want outsiders telling them they couldn’t have their space.”

And this quote by danah boyd also seems current in the context of 2014 and Facebook:

“Back to the fad question… No, it is not just a moral panic that could make MySpace a fad. The primary value right now has to do with identity production and sharing, practices that are more critical to certain populations at certain times in their lives and it is possible that “growing up” will be marked by leaving MySpace (both for the teens and the 20-somethings). It is also possible that getting on MySpace will be marked as “uncool” by the next generation (in the same way that fashion changes across generations). Feeling spammed and invaded by advertisers (or musicians) who seek friendship might turn off users and an increase in this could cripple usage. It is possible that the site will stop evolving with its users. It is possible that people will find new, more interesting ways to do identity production and sharing. It is also possible that the next blinky shiny object will attract users away in clumps, particularly if they better support users’ desires in an innovative way. But none of these are right around the corner.”

It’s important to note how much Facebook is repeating the mistakes that Friendster made 10 years ago. It was exactly when Friendster started to crack down on the “Fakester” accounts that queers started to leave Friendster and migrate to MySpace. At that time, MySpace offered a much more friendly environment for queers.

You all know the quote “Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.”?

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