Monday, November 9, 2015

Facebook is not the Web

I've never thought of myself as an opinionated person, but as I was typing an email yesterday I realised I do have a lot of opinions, quite decided ones, on certain things. It's just that I'm never asked about them, so I don't voice them. Still, looking at the Oxford English dictionary's definition of "opinionated", I think I'm quite safe:

...pretty sure no one would accuse me of either of those things. I hope.

In response to news that I'm developing my personal website, someone commented yesterday that personal websites seem to be losing popularity as they're being replaced with Facebook fan pages. I went off on a rant. Poor guy :p

Facebook is insidiously inserting itself into our lives to the point it's becoming an inseparable part of our everyday existence. Setting up your page there seems like a no-brainer because it's convenient, easy, free, and, of course, right smack in the middle of an existing social network. You're in the thick of things, so to speak, and can easily broadcast important information or updates to interested parties, who can then spread the news quickly through "sharing". The lure is very real.

But what about the downsides? Essentially, I feel we shouldn't rely on Facebook too much because it's a third party corporation. They're motivated by profit and will act according to their business model. If you were to rely on a Facebook page for web presence, and for whatever reason Facebook decides to change settings of how it displays the page, suddenly makes pages a paid feature, or arbitrarily decides to take a page down without notice, you'd be up the creek without a paddle. And there would be no recourse since Facebook is entirely within its rights to do whatever it wants with your page. It has done this before, you know -- stopped page posts from appearing so regularly in newsfeeds... which I personally believe was to try to force people or small businesses to pay in order to be featured in the newsfeed (read: "sponsored content").

I also don't see why my professional content should further help them to monetise; it's bad enough that they're capitalising on my personal content! Hence the desire to have my own site independent of Facebook. Not only that, long-form prose (which as you can see I'm forever producing :p) is not suitable for a medium like Facebook, so if I'm going to pontificate I need to pontificate on the Web proper. Finally, although we may think of Facebook as ubiquitous, if a person has a global mindset he or she will realise that not everyone in the world is or wants to be on Facebook; indeed, there are places on the planet where the site is blocked by certain governments, and so on.

Ultimately, for me, it boils down to this: if you're serious about developing a web presence, you ought to realise that the web has a global reach, and plan accordingly -- there's nothing which frustrates me more when I'm searching for information and come across a website which seems to have only accounted for local visitors, such as an online store which will only ship to domestic destinations. That's called narrow, short-sighted thinking. Anyone in the world could come across your site, but you're still bound by geographical boundaries despite being on the boundless web! What's the point? Okay, so maybe a small store wouldn't want to bother shipping abroad -- it may not be cost-effective to do so. What about sites that, when asking you to fill out information, insist you must be in the US, and demand a US zip code? You'd be surprise how many times I've run into cases like this.

So no, I won't take the easy way out and create a Facebook page. I want to be on the Web. We're talking global limitless accessibility. Why limit yourself by sticking to Facebook? As a supplement to a website, sure, Facebook pages are useful, but they shouldn't be your sole Web presence. This is something I obviously feel strongly about, and didn't even realise it until the subject was brought up!

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