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History is against Facebook

History is against Facebook

Half billion member mark beckons, but history teaches us that big businesses can have a limited lifespan, especially in the online world, says Sam Potter.

May 20, 2010 2:11 by

Elsewhere, Facebook has discovered it cannot be all things to all men; in Pakistan, the site has been banned after it featured a competition that included caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

Facebook’s size is comparable to the largest countries one Earth (it sits somewhere between America and India in population terms), but it attempts to include people from all backgrounds; it’s Western values may not be compatible with certain cultures in the long term. In the Middle East, in particular, where these cultures often have young and growing populations, the incompatibility could ultimately undermine Facebook’s virtual population base.

And of course, we have to touch on the sensitive issue of privacy. In a bid create “a web where the default is social” (and surely to monetize its incredible popularity), the Facebook appears to have taken a number of liberties with its content, meaning that, unless users follow the needlessly complex “opt-out” procedures, their details may be shared with interested third parties pretty much anywhere on the Web.

The moves have provoked outrage, with the European Commission moved to write a letter describing Facebook’s privacy settings as “unacceptable.” The situation has also inspired an online campaign encouraging Facebook users to quit the social network before the end of this month. The first of many?

To its credit, Facebook appears to be responding to the widespread concerns. But cracks can spread, and the 500 million mark may yet prove to be Facebook’s high water mark. Lest we forget, MySpace’s time at the top lasted from June 2006 until April 2008; Facebook has been the number one social networking site for around the same length of time.

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