Facebook is overrated, Automatic not


In the public reception, Facebook is omnipresent. The reason why has http://avc.com/2008/04/the-difference/ explained a while ago. The number of venture capital which was directed to Facebook was high, while the competitor Automatic https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automattic gets only less financial support. But from a technical point of view, Automatic is more valuable than Facebook. At first, the content quality in the so called blogosphere, which is dominated by Facebook is higher. That means, the ordinary WordPress post can be classified as real content, while the ordinary Facebook is a one sentence with marketing weblinks. The second aspect is, that Automatic not only hosts wordpress.com but also developed the PHP wordpress software itself. That means, external companies can use the tool to build their own webspace apart from the wordpress.com community. Facebook has in contrast no own software to offer, which allows external companies to build such an infrastructure. And last but not least, is WordPress part of the normal internet, which means, that the website are searchable with Google, while Facebook is a separate Internet like the Microsoft Network.

The Automatic company is not very present in media coverage. They have only 673 employees and their income is low. But, according to the last survey around 30% of the internet is driven by WordPress and apart from the core product, they also have the Akismet spamfilter and the Gravatar service under their control. The result is, that Facebook only controls Facebook, while Automatic is controlling the whole internet. The only thing in which Automatic is inferior is “Image upload”. Here are Facebook and Google Photo very strong. WordPress is usually not used as a cloud storage for private images.


WordPress is the better Facebook


Recently, I discovered in WordPress a feature, which is not very often explained: WordPress Reader. If i understand the GUI interface right, than it is comparable to a social network. It is comparable to a search engine, but has additional like, comment and follow buttons. That means, even a blog has no dedicated comment section it is possible to comment from inside the WordPress reader? What the user get is at least a social network around blog posts, that means apart from posting articles which are visible in the internet, it is possible to explore the WordPress community. That means, postings written by other for upvoting them.

How exactly this feature works is a bit unclear, because usually the term social network is occupied by Facebook and Google Plus. Is perhaps WordPress a good “in-between-solution”? On the one hand the content there is very serious. It is comparable to Google Plus. On the other hand, the number of daily uploaded postings a higher, that is comparable to Facebook. In theory, it is possible to use WordPress as a Google Plus replacement.

Let us investigate the search bar in the WordPress reader in detail. In contrast to a google search, the result list is ordered chronologically. That means, the newsest postings are on top, perhaps with the intention to comment on them. Another difference to Google is, that only WordPress postings are given back, perhaps with the idea to build a community. The most interesting feature is perhaps, that the content of a blog is shown inside the wordpress reader. That means, it is independent from the layout the blog has.

According to the numbers, https://wordpress.com/activity/posting/ every month 80 million blogposts are created newly. The number has increased over the last years. Per day, the number is around 2.6M The number of comments is around 1.3M per day.

In comparison, Facebook counts the comments, https://blog.microfocus.com/how-much-data-is-created-on-the-internet-each-day/ and around 0.5M comments are uploaded every minute (720 million per day).

The similarity between WordPress and Google Plus is, that both social networks are visiable in the normal internet and searchable with Google, while Facebook is a closed network with unique content.

Facebook is working great

Sometimes the mainstream media are describing problems in the Facebook network for example about data-privacy, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/feb/12/facebook-personal-data-privacy-settings-ruled-illegal-german-court Another sources are reporting that too much older people are on Facebook, while the younger generation is leaving it. This is not the reality, Facebook has no problems at all, the users are happy and the Zuckerberg’ company is working well. But let us investigate the so called data-privacy problems in detail. What does Facebook know about me? Answer: nothing. Apart from 5 URLs to external websites, Facebook has no information about me. And the posted links are not secret but can be found with any searchengine worldwide. In contrast, other social networks like Academia.edu knows much more about me, because there I’ve posted more than only 5 urls but complete fulltext pdf documents with current research from robotics.

The other problem (average age of the users) is also no problem. Instead, Facebook is very attractive to the younger generation. It has some unique features for example the instant-chat, discussion groups and videochat which no other network today has. The younger generation is entering Facebook right now, and leaves former social networks like Google Plus, ICQ and myspace, because Facebook integrates all the information they need. If we are looking on discussion groups which are created for younger users for example about fashion and music, the amount of traffic there is high and will be increasing in future.

Today, Facebook has no real problem. Every media organisation and every user worldwide which is connected to the Internet is using the website, and if not, he plans to do so in future. Today Facebook has 2 billion users worldwide, and the trend is positive. That means in one year the number has doubled, and the value will be higher.

Instead alternatives to Facebook like Wikipedia see a declining in interest. That means, the users are frustrated by Wikipedia and do not like it anymore. The outlook for Academia.edu, Wikipedia, Google Plus and Google Scholar is negative.

Google Plus is better than Facebook

According to the numbers, Google+ is not a big success. Only 400 million active users has the network. In contrast, Facebook has over 2 billion active users. But can a social network be the centre of the internet? I think it is important to know, that Google not only drives the G+ service, but also a search engine. The question is, why does Facebook has no search engine? Is Facebook too small? Not really. The yearly revenue of Facebook is 28 billion US$ if we are combining this with the revenue of Timewarner and Microsoft all three companies have together 146 billion US$ revenue. In comparison, Google has only 90 billion yearly income. So the question should be: why has Facebook not an own internet search engine, which is better than Google? The answer is simple: they do not want inform their customers. It is easier for handling the mass, if they can’t search but only see push notification.

Let us imagine a world without a searchengine, in which a Facebook account is everything what a user has. He is logging in, see the messages of companies and gets news from Timewarner. That is very comfortable, because the articles are well written and the friends are posting photos. Only if the user searches for its own in the whole network he will fail. Is that the future? According to Mark Zuckerberg, the customer needs no search engine, because the newsfeed is so perfect, that Facebook decides what somebody has to know. Not providing a searchengine is something which can be seen as a strategic decision, because it helps to keep an information monopol.

Now we are comparing this with Google. Google has also a social network. It is not so perfect, like Facebook, but apart from that Google has to offer something which is more interesting: a fulltext search engine for the Internet. I think, we should support Google only for that reason. Because the customer is in a better position if he is able to query the internet for keywords. That gives him the power to inform himself.

The best example of how Facebook and other traditional media companies are thinking is Yahoo. Yahoo was a hand tailored internet-catalog which works by categories. The idea was, that the user clicks through a menu and finds so the information he needs. Comparable to the table of contents of a newspaper. And that is the way, what Facebook, Timewarner and Microsoft is prefering. Restricting the customer in his search, not allowing him to search in fulltext-archives and instead presenting him a feed of careful selected information. To be fair, Google Plus has also a newsfeed and the information quality there is even worse like in Facebook, but Google has apart from it also a fulltext-search box. Technically Facebook and Microsoft could doing the same, but they are not interesting in such a service. They want to push information to the customers, because this is easier for their business.

I’m not against Facebook because of their social network, I’m against it because they have no additional searchengine for bypassing the newsfeed.

Google vs Facebook

Some marketing experts have mentioned, that on Facebook the users spend most of their time. Other people are saying that Reddit is the frontpage of the Internet. But the truth is, that Google.com is the Internet-frontpage because the searchengine is more valuable than any other service. According to Alexa, Google is on rank #1 worldwide for all websites. Not because the site is so good but because the users are thinking so.

Perhaps it is possible to delete any other website for example Stackoverflow, Wikipedia, Reddit, Facebook, Youtube and Amazon. But one site is more important and shouldn’t be deleted: a fulltext searchengine. Sometimes Google is called a monopolist, because their searchengine is so strong. But in reality, other companies can provide their own search engine. They have enough capital and enough servers for doing so. But they don’t. Holding back information is the business model of many companies. Google is not a monopol, it is an alternative to what was normal before.

Even today, I would guess that a fulltext search engine is more valuable than a social network. A social network may connect friends and provides funny articles, but only a searchengine can answering questions and provide background information. Not using a searchengine is equal to the 1990s. That was a time, in which nobody was able to search for information. Instead information were browsed with different techniques. For example, somebody went to a bookstore and asked for a book about a topic, or somebody has to buy first a newspaper to get the information when the right time is for a certain movie and than he can switch on his television to watch the show. In theory, it is possible to get all the information without using a search-engine but it works very inefficient.

Deleting your Facebook account is not a good idea

The motivation behind deleting the own Facebook account is to overcome certain problems. The idea is that after logging out and permanent destroy all collected data the individual problem is solved. But let us make a sidestep to deletion in general.

If somebody hates his iphone 5 he comes to the conclusion, that putting it into a metal-shredder is a good idea. And yes, watching how the iphone is crushed by the metal sheet is a sublime moment. And with the same intention it is possible, to write the letter “Facebook” on a sheet of paper and put it in the shredder. The produces a nice feeling, because we are in control of the technology and not the other way around.

The problem is, that in most cases the iphone 5 isn’t put into the shredder because we don’t like to communicate anymore, instead we want to buy a better version, perhaps the iphone 7. Destroying something is equal to make room for new things. And the arms race goes only in one direction, it is not possible to destroy the iphone 5 with the idea to downgrade to the iphone 3. What does that means for the Facebook case?

At the first hand it is a good idea to delete the own account, but what could be the successor of the social network? Naturally an enhanced version of a social network, which has more tracking capabilities, more followers and an intensive form of friendship. Let us suppose we are living in the TV series “Real humans”. There it is possible to make friends not only with humans, but with robots too. The fictional Facebook version there can be called enhanced. For example, it is possible to date a robot and play tennis with him.

So my recommendation is, that if somebody don’t like modern technology, and hates Facebook he shouldn’t delete his account, because this would fight back to the user and he is waking up in a dystopia society. Today’s Facebook can be called friendly and clear. The number of possible interactions are limited, the user has full control over his data.

Google Plus as a photo-community?

What the value of Google Plus is, is unclear right now. The social network is known as a low traffic website, because most people are on Facebook and will stay there. And indeed, companies like newspapers and magazine are no longer posting any kind of information at Google Plus, because nobody read or comment it. At first, I want to describe what the alternatives to Google Plus are. If somebody has written a longer text, he can post it into a blog. If somebody has written a scientific paper, he can put it on Academia.edu, and if somebody is interested in smalltalk he can do it on Facebook. So what is the reason for google Plus?

I found recently a community inside Google Plus, which is apart from the general trend, very frequent be visited. It is called “Street photographers”, has 425k members, and the latest posting was 5 minutes ago. The users are posting that kind of content in the group, what the title recommends. And the remarkable aspect is, that nearly all postings gets a comment and a like. If I as a reader scroll through the page it makes sense. Because high-quality images without too much text are the kind of content which is well suited for G+. The group looks a bit like a photomagazine, like the Voque, but only with usercreated content. I would suggest, that this community and others, are the backbone in Google Plus. Because from the workflow it makes sense. At first, the user makes with his smartphone a picture in the street, than he uploads the file to Google Photos and posts a link in the above mentioned group. There the picture earns a comment and gets traffic.

Perhaps we can compare the photo group inside G+ with possible alternatives? Yes, on Facebook there are ads, and photogroups in the normal internet have too much text. As far as i can see, a photo-community is the best use-case for Google Plus, and my prediction is, that the traffic will increase in the future, because apart from Google Plus there is no alternative for doing so.

Another interesting group is “Looking at art”, which is devoted to impressionist paintings. The idea is equal: huge picture are shown, and with small text. Most of the pictures gets traffic and comments and the community is updated frequently. Scrolling down through the pictures, produces a high load in the internet-connection. It is only recommended for broudband users which have a flatrate from their IP-providers.

As a conclusion, we can say, that Google Plus is a gallary for presenting street photography and paintings.