Simon Wistow (deflatermouse) wrote,
Simon Wistow

See the animal in the cage that you built

I'm largely of the opinion that Facebook is the epitome of all evil and is surely one of the signs of the apocalypse, a foreshadow of the dark days to come and a tool design by the minions of the devil to suck up time.

Of course, I have an account. I got it to test a Facebook App and then suddenly I had like 6 friends already. And then more people added me and suddenly I was compulsively approving people and adding others because Debrett's don't have a chapter on whether or not it's rude to not friend someone back merely because you want to stop using the blasted service.

It's genius.

Seriously, through accident or design it's the most genius bit of self sustainment since Pokemon (which wore its heart on its sleeve with "Gotta buy^W catch 'em all") or Beanie Babies (limited edition teddy bears - nigh Machiavellian!). And the idea of Facebook apps is inspired - why compete with everything else, make them come to us.

And then suddenly it snowballs and people start organising stuff via Facebook, sharing things via Facebook or only getting in contact with you via Facebook - sometimes it's ex girlfriends. Two of them. From like a decade ago. On the same day. That's just creepy. It's not like they know each other or anything so it can't have been a coordinated attack. I hope. Anyway, I digress.

I had a friend who complained that a sibling attempted to transmit medical records via the medium and it suddenly made me realise - I suspect one fo the reasons why it's so popular is that it's how most normal people expect "The Internet" to work. You know the type of people - use Outlook at work and Hotmail at home and jeopardy quote everything. Who don't know what the difference between "The Web" and "The Internet" is. Who naively expect everything to just work.

And I don't blame them - to them the internet is a commodity, an means to an end, not a joy in and of itself. Like cars there are some people to whom the tinkering with the car is the main thing and some to whom the driving is where it's all at and some people just want a way to getting to work that isn't the bus.

This is how they want their email (for want of another word) to work. They don't need threads or whatnot, they just want one place to go to get everything. No spam, no quoting, everything easy to use and infinitely extendable.

Want to send an invitation to an event with details to the location and photos for before and after? No problem. Want to tag people in the photos and then be told whenever you or your friends are highlighted - it's right there in your feed. It just works and moreover, it just works as expected. "Hell," you say, "Outlook's been doing meeting requests for years" yeah but can Outlook send you an invitation to join a Scrabble game or take a Movie quiz or recruit you into a zombie pirate vampire army ? No. Sure you can send links but it's not the same thing by a long way - it's not tightly integrated and seamless in a way that makes Apple strangely horny and mournful and jealous all at the same time.

I've been pondering if the surprisingly flexible RFC822 format could be moulded into a system that would allow this kind of interaction through smarter email clients but over traditional SMTP and without being tied to one website. Outlook seems to have a good start and multipart/mime messages seem like a good start. Authentication of the remote apps might be a problem but with OAuth and some agreed standard it's not undoable.

Or maybe the answer lies in XMPP or something - I don't think anybody disagrees that whilst SMTP was genius it was never designed with the modern email ecosystem in mind. Without wanting to become a Anti-spam kook it's possible that, without some sort of change, the masses may migrate away from open email standards towards a bright and shiny closed system because for them it's a much better deal and hang the idea of interoperability that we (possibly naively) cherish so dearly.

Oh dear, I've come over all doom and gloom end-is-nigh. And on a nice sunny Friday too. Shame on me.
Tags: email, facebook, fussp, kook, oauth, social networks, xmpp

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