So Twitter is ‘in early talks with potential buyers Facebook and Google’, according to a report in The Guardian.
Consider Twitter, or Dropbox, or Skype, or whatever online service you care to. If you knew that in five years they would be bought by Google or Facebook or Amazon, or some today-unheard-of venture capital group, or the People’s Liberation Army, would you be more or less likely to sign up?
Maybe every online service today that’s still around in ten years will by then be part of one corporation. This is one reason I’m reluctant to put my social network online. You know the deal: “link to all your friends and family; upload and tag all your photos; list where your friends live and work; What restaurant are you in, and who else is there, and what are they having? Whatcha doin, where ya goin’, whoozat? Put it all online! It’ll be great!” Beyond what should be normal reticence, there’s reasonable caution, and sloth. Why would I type all that in? When I mail letters, I keep the address face down so people can’t see who I’m writing to. Even if I trusted the privacy settings and were comfortable letting Twitter or Dropbox have all that data now, who will have it in five years – an age on the web, but not so long in reality.
Moreover, it seems impossible to disguise one’s social connections with chaff. It would be one thing to tell Facebook falsely (and hypothetically, since it might violate their terms of service) that one graduated from high school in 1983, has a degree in physics, and works for Inetech. It would be another thing to try to maintain a fake social network. In fact it would be several other things – tedious, unrewarding, and finally impossible; in time the fake social network would become a real social network. It might be a good idea for a story though.
Imagine a guy paid to use Facebook. He’s maintaining a phony network of friends. Why? He doesn’t know. There would be a cover story – “marketing research” or something – but he would discover that to be false. Surprise, the company that is paying him to lie for them, is lying to him. Is it an elaborate stock scam, or something more sinister? And who’s the old man who pretends to be a janitor?
Anyway, I’m not much inclined to give to any online service links to all my friends and family. Even if I trusted the service today, nobody knows what the online world will be like in five or ten years.