If there was one thing most semi-literate, half-awake people always liked about Facebook, it was the clean air and the tidy sidewalks. You knew that you could let your kids out after six and their bikes wouldn’t get stolen. The city council was pretty strict about how you couldn’t park your nasty, rotting car in the drive, and any graffiti was always dealt with in a timely manner. There were no closed buildings with boarded up windows and most people respected each other’s property, aside from the odd character-art wall post. Lately, Facebook has changed and I’m not willing the blame the Developers’ Platform and Applications entirely. Just this week, I went to write on a friend’s wall, and I saw this:
What. The Hell. Is that. Ringtones? In a Facebook wall post? If you’ve ever laid eyes on a profile that includes the Super Wall, Fun Wall, Advanced Wall or any other sort of non-conformist, MySpacey bulletin board, you’ll have seen this crap:
However, the entry on my friend’s wall was not posted via an externally-developed application, most of which specialise in the distribution of idiotic pictures. The ghastly ringtone advertisement – which signifies so much more than just an annoying piece of spam – was left on a Facebook mainstay that has been fiercely protected from abuse. A few days later, I came across another spammy entry on a regular Facebook wall.
These posts have all the hallmarks of automated spam and none of the traits of copied-and-pasted messages. The terrible grammar. The inconsistent punctuation and bad spelling. The use of the number zero in place of “o.” A redirected URL that ends up at the vomit-inducing Sleektones.net. No link for you, not even with a nofollow. These messages were also “posted by” twenty-one year old college students, and although there are problems with the U.S. education system, I find it hard to believe that anyone who’d made it past the third grade would believe “free” was actually two words.
If I’d seen this on a SuperAdvancedFun Wall, I would not have looked twice. Those applications seem to have been developed and spread for and by people who miss the gaudiness of MySpace. However, Facebook has held on to early adopters and utter snobs like me by maintaining its initial structure and dignity in the face of mass development. Despite the main structural changes in layout, I can hold on to the clean, tidy profile I liked so much three years ago. They’ve done especially well in this regard.
That’s what keeps people like me around, and whilst it would take many more fails on Facebook’s behalf until I left it, I fear the day my wall falls victim to ringtone ads. I’m not bothered by the copied and pasted wall art: Although I delete any images like the one below, they are a far cry from automated annoyances.
On Facebook’s potential-laden yet neglected blog, Paul Jeffries recently wrote about application spam and what Facebook is doing to combat the problem. However, letting in the masses and having them create applications has allowed a slew of undesirable things to infiltrate a once-pristine community. Jeffries’ blog post addresses applications that require a user to invite friends to also use it before they’re granted access.
I’d go as far as regulating how pushy applications can be in requiring (tricking?) people into adding them to their accounts. Clicking on any one of the applications’ links in the image below brings up the application’s Add page. Whilst I agree that “Forward” and “Write on [blank's] Wall” should require a user to add the application, the “click here to read full post” link is just trickery. I’m also fairly sure that there is no full post.
How should Facebook go about achieving the balance between pleasing its users who like its tight regulations, and catering to the people who want to forward yellow smiley-faces and messages about how the name of one’s crush will appear on the screen if they re-post this message twenty times in the next eight minutes?
I don’t know what exactly is going on with the ringtone spam and various other questionable messages I’ve seen posted on Facebook walls but neglected to capture. I did, however, feel a touch of sadness when I saw those messages, as if I’d learned that yet another nice area of town had gone to ruin. Have spammers and phishers finally begun the slow take-over of Facebook, as they did MySpace?
No, I don’t have to add the applications I find annoying, but after seeing spam creep onto Facebook’s regular wall and after being nearly tricked by other sneaky applications, I believe Facebook should consider tightening up their community before housing prices drop even further and people consider finding out what AOL plans to do with Bebo.