There is an incredible post written by Karl Dubost here on his blog about Web 2.0 and it being ‘about you.’ It is amazing, and it is in French, but because it is so amazing, I will take some time and translate it for you. But go visit his blog, because this is his content, not mine.
I quit Flickr, much to the surprise of a number of people. The shock of my departure for those that appreciated my photography will not last more than a month or two. The first question that was asked to me was: “Why?” The answer is complex.
Everything started one morning with my reading an article on MSNBC (which also appeared in Newsweek) that started like this:
“Why is everyone so happy in Silicon Valley again? A new wave of start-ups are cashing in on the next stage of the Internet. And this time, it’s all about… you.”The New Wisdom of the Web, Steven Levy, Brad Stone
The relatively long article insists that the new generation of web services have been created to be in service to you, do make you happy… If there is one thing I cannot tolerate in the field of customer relations, it is intellectual laziness. I do not think that Stewart Butterfield and Catherina Fake are either stupid, or naive. One does not drive a commercial enterprise like Flickr to the level that it currently, nor sell it to a multinational like Yahoo! if you do not have any business sense.
I’m not swallowing it. No, no, and no, it is not “all about me.”
All of the web 2.0 companies are there for commercial purposes, to exploit your personal data in order to bear them to fruit, sometimes even by getting you to pay for it. Technorati doesn’t respect robots.txt files, Google uses your content for the purpose of advertising, even if your content is under a non-commercial license, etc. We have to stop taking people for idiots. Using the concepts of liberty, creativity, of goodwill, of community in order to better take advantage of you, in order to better pump out of you what makes you a well-identified consumer is pathetic.
We are seeing the birth of a new kind of slavery. In a chain of production, what often costs the most is manpower. In a society where the value of things is based on information, the market is searching for the best sources of it. Beforehand, marketing studies were expensive because they required a certain manpower, which was expensive. Finding out what kind of consumer you were, what your favourite vacation destinations were, what your favourite desert is – that is expensive, very very expensive.
But this is the new age of the web, the age where each of us spreads what we like or don’t like to the entire planet, and not only to our close friends. To give you an idea of what happens in reality, imagine that, as of the moment you wake up, there is a silent person next to you with a notepad that records everything that you read, that you seem to like or not like. This person will compile it every night and create a report in order to sell it. When you are really well-identified, they will send you an advertisement that will know how to reach you. It’s not an advertisement anymore, it’s a service!
Why do you think that companies are investing into “social networking” (the irony of the term) – no, not in order to help mankind, but because within it, there is a key of their commercial interests. Why are they betting on you? Because you are doing all this for free, or more precisely, you are taking the time and using your expertise without them needing to pay you.
Imagine for a minute that you consider your personal information to be a resource (like petroleum or minerals) and that you know how to exploit this resource. Certain people need your resources (personal information) to create products, so they negotiate a purchase price. If you don’t want to sell it, the buyer can’t do a thing (except when it’s a world superpower and they take over another in order to access its resources).
Certain countries still do it; all of the European countries have done it over the past few centuries. One of the results of this has been massive exploitation of minerals (pillaging) and of humanity (slavery) in these countries, which became colonies.
Because I want to exercise my right of choice and that I do not want to live in such a society, I am quitting. This has a “cost” like every other choice that you make against an institutionalized society. I am blocking their ability use my information for their own purposes, whichever they might be; I am leaving Flickr. Since we are in this new paradigm of information and social networking, the first pressure has come from the reaction of my peers. That is where the system can cause harm.
Therefore, I am sorry for all of you that consider it a convenience, but I am exercising my right, defined by their phrase: “It’s all about you.”
(See also: It’s not about you)