I talk a lot – not here, admittedly – about the real sense of unease Web 2.0 instills in me. Please don’t cast me as some sort of internet luddite. I think that the philosophy behind 2.0 – that the internet should allow us to connect with friends and those with similar interests, and share our experiences with them – is brilliant. It’s the execution that worries me. Sharing should be an optional thing. You should listen to an album or watch a movie and think jesus christ, that was AMAZING and then be able to share that with the people who you think are interested (this is one of the reasons I am optimistic about Google+). But instead, we get the new Facebook sidebar that shares everything you’re watching, reading, or listening to… yes, you can turn these off, but at the minute I feel like it’s an opt-out system, not an opt-in system, and as more and more websites are built around the 2.0 framework, the penalties for not opting in become greater and greater. Take World’s Biggest Pacman, for instance. You can play on the board all you want, and it’s fun, but in order to create your own map and add to it, you have to log in through your Facebook account. This is something I don’t want to do, because I don’t want my Facebook account associated with World’s Biggest Pacman. There’s surely a checkbox you can tick to stop it from spewing Pacman adverts all over your feed under your name, but it’s not worth the hassle of me finding it and unchecking it.

This is a completely stupid example, because it’s Pacman, but things like this start small. Already websites allow you to create accounts attached to your Facebook or Twitter accounts. Why is this a good thing? I really don’t want, for instance, my Facebook account to be linked to my MapMyRun account. I use the former to maintain a social presence amongst friends, mostly old ones, and I use the latter to keep track of my jogging routes and times. I talk about running with some of my friends here in Manchester who also run, but I’ve got absolutely no reason to want to combine the two. I don’t want information about jogging being broadcast to the people I have on Facebook. Then disable the notifications! you say. But why do I have to opt out?

Personally, I think this integration of social networking is the wrong way to go about things. It’s probably the simplest way, though, and it certainly serves both the social networks and the websites that integrate with them well: the social networks get to extend their ubiquity, and the website gets free advertising. It’s probably great if you’re an outwardly social person, as well, but as someone who keeps a smallish group of very close friends and little outside that, it’s not something I feel comfortable with. Ones own internet experience should make one comfortable, no?

I’m not sure what I’d suggest instead, and I’m not sure social network integration is  an entirely bad thing, either. What concerns me is that there appears to be no stopping and questioning, and instead more and more integration and full speed ahead to Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of an entirely social internet. And as soon as the internet becomes one person’s vision, it might well have never existed in the first place.

(nb 1. For what I regard as an example of what Web 2.0 should be like, see Yelp. It’s a well-curated community driven by user-produced content. It’s got a bit of a message board feeling to it, which is something I think 2.0 should strive towards achieving.)

(nb 2. Of course, a lot of my ideas about Web 2.0 are extremely derivative; see Jaron Lainer’s excellent You Are Not A Gadget, or Zadie Smith’s sort of Cliffs Notes version here).

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