It’s been four years since I described the 2018 Social Media Experience. Let’s see what’s changed in that time!

#Twitter is still like a train crashing into a burning dumpster. The old owner wouldn’t let firefighters in because they did such a brisk business selling marshmallows, and the new one thinks it needs more gas because the flames aren’t hot enough and it would be unethical to keep the fire down to even marshmallow-toasting levels.

#Facebook…TBH I haven’t been there in a while, but I get the impression it’s still like a large family gathering, only now conversation is mostly drowned out by your racist uncle/in-law’s soapboxing and the TV commercials for things related to his screed instead of just being interrupted by them, unless you can hide out in a different room, where you’ll still get interrupted by commercials for things related to your own conversation.

#Tumblr is the weird coffee shop you used to hang out in but you’ve outgrown. It was bought out by a national chain and homogenized into the ground, but they offloaded it to a smaller chain and now each location is allowed to have its own personality again.

#Mastodon is like a building with a lot of small parties going on: Not as many people in each room, but you can actually hear each other talk, and people will sometimes hang out in the hall or move to another room, connecting conversations together. But finding a good room can be tough.

#Pixelfed is like Mastodon, except everyone’s brought photos and made the room into a gallery.

#Instagram is like checking out your friends’ vacation photos, but every other photo is an advertisement, and half of your friends’ pics are full of product placement.

TikTok…from what I gather, it’s like being in a crowd with people you don’t know, and someone keeps pushing other people at you that they think you might want to talk to.

Of course, all of them have people who will Judge You because You’re Doing It Wrong.

The Verge makes an interesting point about Microsoft’s acquisition of Bethesda: for the most part, Microsoft doesn’t care what hardware you run their stuff on, they just want you to buy the software. So it’s less likely to be about trying to gain Xbox exclusives and more likely to be about getting more games for Game Pass.

It reminds me of a blog post I read a few years back comparing the core businesses of various major tech players:

  • Apple sells hardware, and their software and media stores are a way to give you something to do with the hardware.
  • Microsoft sells software, and the hardware is to give you something to run their software on.
  • Google sells ads on services, and their hardware, operating systems, and software (Android, Pixel, Chromebooks, Chrome, etc. ) are there to connect you to their services.
  • Amazon sells stuff, and their hardware is a way to sell you virtual (and sometimes physical) stuff.

That’s why, for instance, you can run Gmail on anything, and Microsoft Office on almost anything, but iTunes, the main Apple program that actually runs on a non-Apple system, is designed primarily to hook you up with an iPhone (previously an iPod). And it’s why you can read Kindle eBooks on a Kindle device, or a Kindle app on an Android or iOS device, and they make it really easy to buy e-books from them, but really inconvenient to import anything from another eBook store.

Facebook is similar to Google in that their core strategy is a service with ads, and their apps and (when they branch out into it with things like Portal) hardware are ways to keep you using their services. Heck, they’re even tying the Oculus headsets to Facebook accounts now.

The post predates the rise of smart speakers and doorbells…but remember how the Echo was originally mostly a way to voice-order things through Amazon? Or Amazon Key, whose primary purpose was to allow delivery services to drop off packages inside your house so you wouldn’t have to worry about porch pirates?

Plus of course everyone wants to sell you subscriptions now!

And yet…it still fits remarkably well.

Facebook still insists it’s totally OK for them to help politicians lie to you for $$$.

Not just misleading ads, or controversial opinions, or varying interpretations, but outright lies. Totally fine with it!

Facebook says they don’t want to be in the business of fact-checking, but they have policies against false commercial advertising. Truth in advertising is critical because commerce requires trust and informed choices.

SO. DOES. DEMOCRACY.

It’s even more important in politics.

“Your Page was flagged because your post(s) linked to domain_placeholder.com.” — an email I got last night.

Um…yeah. Sure. That’s not a valid domain name.

The message showed up less than an hour after I logged into Facebook for the first time in weeks, and it does appear to actually be from Facebook and not a phish.

But I don’t see any indication in Facebook’s website that the page in question has been flagged for anything, much less “sharing, distributing or promoting content inauthentically.” (In other words, selling links. Which I don’t do anyway.) I haven’t clicked on the tracked links just in case it is a phish, but there’s a link to submit an appeal that goes to a non-tracked Facebook Help page…which is a 404.

Searching for domain_placeholder.com on Facebook and Twitter turned up other people reacting to similar messages they got last night…and nothing older.

I’m confident it’s bogus, and I suspect it was sent out accidentally. Maybe someone at Facebook is testing a new email template, and accidentally sent it to a real subset of users on a real mail server.

Update (4/18): The Facebook Help page linked in the message now contains the following statement:

No action required

You may have received an email that we sent out in error, and your Page may not have violated the Pages Policy on restrictions around sharing, distributing or promoting content inauthentically. Please ignore the email you received on 04/15/2019.

We apologize for any inconvenience.

So it looks like it was what I expected: a test message sent out by mistake.

Update (4/19): Four days later, Facebook finally sent me a follow-up email saying, “We sent you an email by mistake.”

Anyone familiar with what Facebook Pages considers to be a “business?”

Facebook decided to group my “business pages” (two blogs, neither of which is a business, one of which I had already marked for deletion a few days ago) into a “business account.” I thought maybe they’d flattened their definitions, but another page (for a long-defunct user group that I also marked for deletion this week) didn’t get lumped into it.

“Help” hasn’t been terribly helpful.

Knowing Facebook, I half-suspect it’s some weird “Oh noes, he’s deleting pages because he thinks he doesn’t have the tools he needs! Let’s change his settings so he’ll see that we do offer the tools!” I deleted the pages because they’ve been inactive for years, not because I don’t have advertising tools for them.

I don’t need a “Facebook business account,” but I’m reluctant to delete it unless I can be sure I won’t lose access to the active blog’s page. And again, “Help” has been spectacularly unhelpful.