Is Facebook that Desperate about Its Failed Email Service?

Casey Johnston at Ars Technica has the details of what to me seems like a pretty sleazy move. I have definitely confirmed that the “About” part of my profile now shows the email at the FB domain instead of my actual email. Worse, as reported, there is no way for a user to change this, to remove the FB email or give preference to any other address over it. I have been on the fence about deleting my Facebook account for some time. This may be the final straw.

Facebook forces all users over to e-mail addresses, Ars Technica

Facebook, AOL’s E-meh-l Initiatives

You know what would be truly valuable? A highly scalable email provider in the cloud that encrypted your stored mail so only you could read it. I’d be at least as much as I already do for my virtual private server for a secure, private solution that I don’t have to administer. Instead we are getting a couple of attempts at re-inventing email supposedly to make it simpler or better.

AOL (remember them?) is desperately trying to offer something of relevance with their attempt at email aggregation. I am not so sure I buy the argument that setting up email forwarding is all that hard. According to Verne G. Kopytoff at the New York Times, the promise of Project Phoenix is to pull all your email to one place, on their servers, of course. Reading the article, it sounds like a conservation of hassle compared to using existing means to re-direct your email.

It doesn’t stop there, but also includes add ons clearly aimed at the upcoming generation that has been oft quoted as finding email irrelevant.

Users can use it to send a text message, an AIM instant message, a text-only e-mail or a status update through AOL Lifestream, which allows users to broadcast messages to various services like Twitter and Facebook. The idea is to give users the ability to send off messages quickly without having to click through to another page to write.

These non-email messaging capabilities overlap very strongly with a new messaging initiative with the considerably more relevant social network service, Facebook. Among others, Robert Pegoraro, veteran techie at the Washington Post, has the details of what Facebook is claim is not an email service. You can set up your name at the domain and receive traditional email. It would be more fair to say it is not only email but like Project Phoenix is seeking to blend email with IM and synchronous chat.

Allow me to indulge my inner crank and let loose a resounding, meh. By blending quick, synchronous communication in with email’s staid bastion of asynchrony, both AOL and Facebook are obliterating the value inherent in being able to ignore and defer conversations. Are young users so incapable of using existing chat and instant messaging that we have to fuse them with the email services they claim not to use anyway? Must I now increasingly have to put up with the stunted, interrupt driven style of communication fostered by chat and IM? I find it very hard to believe that the youngest generation are incapable of appreciating the differences and values arising from them inherent in old and new messaging systems.

Of course, the real motive of both online companies is to capture more use through their own systems for the purposes of extracting value, usually through various kinds of advertising. Lauren Weinstein is already calling attention to the darker current underlying Facebook’s new service, namely the inability to use it and keep correspondences entirely private. I only hope that these latest attempts are as jarring and useless as Wave was to kill them before they rob me of my own preferred communication channel, email. Or, in other words–Hey! You kids! Get off of my lawn!

feeds | grep links > Wikia 2.0, Google-Facebook Hissy Fit, and More

  • One next step in the wiki’s evolution merges in the social
    As Mike Melanson at ReadWriteWeb explains, this announcement for Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales, reveals what is coming for his commercial venture, Wikia. I am relieved that similar plans are not in the offing for Wikipedia itself. Given how Wikia has struggled to gain traction, with a rising tide of me-too services further diluting the field, embracing social features may yield a needed shot in the arm.
  • Google-Facebook hissy fit over data portability
    Mike Melanson at ReadWriteWeb has the latest turn in a largely tiresome spat between the two web giants. I think Google’s competitive zeal against Facebook is clouding their better judgment, though the messaging is pretty funny. Rather than enlisting users or sprinkling code-based caltraps, I really think Google should stick to the ideal that informs their internal Data Liberation Front. Sinking to Facebook’s level is just going to prolong the delay before data portability wins out.
  • Citizen Lab develops project to map out RIM’s concessions to government, Citizen Lab
  • European commissioner lambasts copyright middlemen, TorrentFreak

feeds | grep links > Chrome OS More Open than Android, Tool for Seeing What Info Facebook Shares, and More

feeds | grep links > Holographic Video Displays, Univac’s Electoral Prediction, Patent Database is Up and Running, and More

  • First glimmerings of holographic video displays
    John Timmer at Ars Technica discusses some pretty impressive research considering how little holography has advanced for anything other than trivial applications. The system these researchers are building may seem crude but most of the equipment being used, including the network connection, are pretty close to consumer grade. The potential is enormous though I have to imagine free standing holography is a further horizon beyond these re-writing but otherwise fairly constrained displays.
  • History of computing and elections from 1952
    Wired has re-printed an article from around the time of the last US elections by Randy Alfred. In it, he explains how Univac, one of the earliest computers, was tasked with predicting the presidential election in 1952. The forecast put together by the machines and its operators was remarkably accurate but the TV folks they initially approached were too skeptical to air it at the time, only admitting to discounting the computer’s results well after they were obviously correct.
  • Patent database is up and running
    Rogue archivist, Carl Malamud, has the good news at O’Reilly Radar. The joint effort between the USPTO, the White House and Jon Orwant at Google has resulted in a new, open database that supplants feeds that formerly required substantial subscription feeds. As Carl explains, this was no easy chore given vested interests in the revenue streams from the old, closed system. A huge win for restoring a critical piece of our informational commons here in the US.
  • Five years of Linux kernel benchmarks, Slashdot
  • Group trying to get back scatter airport scanners banned, Techdirt
  • Google and Facebook to face tougher EU privacy rules, Reuters, via Groklaw
  • New beta of Firefox 4 mobile released, Mozilla, via Hacker News

feeds | grep links > USB Dead Drops, Mobile Mesh for Telephony, Facebook Bans Apps that Sold User Data, and More

  • USB dead drops, embedding the dark net in architecture
    Slashdot and BoingBoing covered this project by Aram Bartholl over the weekend. He’s cemented USB sticks into walls and other fixtures at a handful of locations, with plans to set up more such dead drops. The idea is that rather than passing storage containers hand to hand, file shares can simply plug in and copy onto and from the drives what they want. The project seems more like an art installation than an IT effort, a way of weaving asynchronous, anonymous sharing into public spaces.
  • Mobile mesh for wireless telephony
    Duncan Geere cross posted this article to Wired and Ars Technica, it is about research that really is quite similar to other mesh network plans about which I’ve read. Why not make the cutely named body-to-body connections simply provide IP protocol carriage with telephony being just one application carried? I would think the growth of smart phones is what is crushing networks more so than mere phone calls. It will be interesting to see if this work which was done at Queen’s University in Belfast can make better progress on the challenges of making a mobile device based mesh as good as or better than the fixed mobile networks we have now.
  • Facebook bans apps that sold user info to data brokers
    Sarah Perez at ReadWriteWeb has the details of some positive privacy news from the dominant social network. I do wonder if this practice would have persisted if the Wall Street Journal had not exposed it, though. Also, why isn’t Facebook built in such a way to make this sort of thing much more difficult, if not outright impossible?
  • Users sue Google, Facebook, Synga over privacy , Slashdot
  • Justice department rules isolate gene sequences should not be patentable, Techdirt
  • Google sues US government for only considering Microsoft solutions, Techdirt
  • Researchers claim better quantum tunneling, EE Times

Quick Security Alerts for Week Ending 10/31/2010

feeds | grep links > Autonomous Vans Follow Marco Polo, Pushing Limits of Chip Making Further, Facebook’s New Friend Stalker Tool, and More

  • Vans drive themselves across the world
    Slashdot links to a Techeye piece describing the track of four driver-less vehicles that successfully re-traced the route of Marco Polo. Autonomous vehicles seem to be improving dramatically rather rapidly. The fact that these are not sedans but the smallest style of commercial vehicle reinforces my expectation that we’ll see this technology in regular use for long haul freight hauling before it becomes an up-class option on your next personal vehicle.
  • Research suggesting an end run around scale limits of chip photo-lithography
    Chris Lee at Ars Technica describes so new work that may give Moore’s Law, as seen with current techniques for making computer chips, a reprieve until more advanced replacements come into play. The effective threshold on current photo-lithographic techniques is how small a bit of light you can cast through a mask onto the chip. What researchers are now realizing is that they may be able to manipulate secondary effects to go beyond this diffraction limit, continuing to shrink the scale at which they can manipulate materials with light.
  • Facebook adds friend stalker tool
    Slashdot is just one of many places pointing to this developer driven feature recently announced by the social networking giant. It is difficult to know if this really exposes any more private information than any other page or feature on the site. What is clear is that by casting it into a new context, the interactions between two friends the observer selects, more expectations are likely to be violated about where and how this information is seen.
  • Australian privacy commissioner slams data retention plan , Slashdot
  • Israel to join list of nations with ‘adequate’ data protection plans, The Register
  • Archive of Geocities being released as a near 1TB torrent, Techdirt

Quick Security Alerts for the Week Ending 10/24/2010

Quick Security Alerts for the Week Ending 10/17/2010