Social Giants, Why are you so Anti-Social these Days?

Social media giants Facebook, Instagram, Google+, and Twitter have been acting sort of funny lately. They’re acting. . .well. . .anti-social.

Facebook: You’re taking the fun out of “creeping”

The Social Network, or The Anti-Social Network? (Image Credit: John McIntire)

The Social Network, or The Anti-Social Network? (Image Credit: John McIntire)

Facebook, the biggest kid on the block, has become the most anti-social of all the social properties. Through tight integration with Bing for Maps and web search, Facebook has built  walls all around its service. To wit: even public Facebook pages now require a Facebook login, which is problematic for two reasons: 1) it’s super annoying, and worse, 2) it forecloses Google’s search indexing altogether.

I get it: this move will funnel users to Facebook’s new Graph Search, were, presumably all the data ever posted by Facebook’s 1BN users could be searched. Want a startling example? Click the “Activity Log” button on your Timeline, select “more” and then select “search” to be reminded of every person or thing you’ve creeped on since the day Facebook Search was introduced. Ex-girlfriends in the list? Yes. Other potentially embarrassing searches? Definitely.

I don’t take much comfort in the fact that “search” is limited to “just me,”  because Facebook has a history of changing their privacy settings without warning. The mere presence of that little  “don’t sign” which is labeled “hidden from timeline” makes me suspect that information could be unhidden.  I, for one, will be keeping a much closer eye on every single click on Master Zuckerberg’s site henceforth. And doesn’t that take some of the fun out of “keeping up” (not to mention stalking) Facebook friends?

Instagram: I don’t enjoy hoarding my cool filtered pictures, I want to be able to share them!

Instagram’s slow integration to the blue mothership (read: Facebook) is causing some blowback for it’s user base. Specifically, albums don’t integrate, insta-wonders are shelved in a box that lives on FB Timeline, and commenting has gotten really unpredictable.

There is no telling when or whether these issues will be addressed, but I’m not overly optimistic. User convenience or satisfaction seems to be less important to Instagram since their acquisition. It stinks to not be able to post or see Instagram pictures on Twitter.

Google+: I’m starting to like you. Is this a trick?

Lately, Google + has actually become more, rather than less, social. I can barely even call Google+ a “wasteland” with a straight face these days, because it has been blowing up my feeds. Google+ has been relying on new features to draw users in instead of walling off the ones they already have. You might argue that Google+ is attempting to catch up and shake its status as third (or fourth) fiddle behind Facebook and Twitter. But, I don’t think that’s it. After all, Google+ probably already has you, activation notwithstanding, so long as you have a gmail account.

The irresistible Google+ features are going to suck you in, and over time, collect your reviews, likes, and dislikes. This kind of data is a new arm of the Google empire.

Twitter: What happened to your API?

Tears for the third-party developer victims of Twitter's user token limit.

He cries for the  victims of Twitter’s user token limit.

Twitter is a silo now. Recently Twitter threw all their developer friends overboard with new, more stringent API rules that require all third-party apps to be certified before they’re installed, or else the breaching developer’s API key could be revoked. Twitter also limited the number of user tokens–short for Twitter users who can access the app–that applications can have before they aren’t allowed to take on more users without Twitter approval.

I can see Twitter’s perspective: it wants to make sure it has some control over how its data stream is monetized and how tweets are displayed, which gets hairy with third party apps. Still the new API rules make Twitter a little anti-social, especially for developers.

So where do we go from here? For now it all comes down to which walled garden you feel like playing in depending on your current activity and, in the short term, how worried you are about what your social properties are doing with the data that’s gotten too valuable to share freely between networks. In the long term, how customer data is used and (assuming customers have some understanding of that) may impact where they chose to spend their social time.  But while the social giants decide exactly how user data will be monetized, they’re siloing off, to keep their customers, and their data, from falling into other hands.

Looking for a tinfoil hat? If so, may we suggest The 25 Greatest Data Quotes as a distraction?

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