Facebook and Fundamentalism
September 3rd, 2012 by ravi

The Atlantic has a piece by Robinson Mayer which includes this quote from Eric Schmidt, back when he was the CEO of Google:

Fundamentally, what Facebook has done is built a way to figure out who people are. That system is missing in the internet as a whole. Google should have worked on this earlier.

I have a lot of trouble understanding these kinds of statements about the fundamental nature of things. Figuring out who people are is indeed quite fundamental to Google’s operations but how on earth is it fundamental to anyone else? The Internet is not missing such a system. The Internet, to my knowledge, was intentionally built without such a system. There is no fundamental need within the network to know who people are more than what they reveal about themselves in relevant contexts.

It seems to me that the problem with the pedestrian truth, that Facebook has built an online platform for people to share bits, is not that it is not the fundamental story, but that Facebook has not figured out a way to monetize it.

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