Scripting News for 10/13/07

Why Facebook sucks 

Another topic Scoble and I talked about today was Facebook. I said I don’t like Facebook, never have, and I finally figured out why.

It’s another one of those user generated content things, only this time I’m building up an address book that I can look at, but can only do things with it that Facebook lets me do.

Why exactly do I need Facebook to get inbetween me and my address book?

I mean, I understand why they want me to tell them everyone I know, but how about letting me download a copy to my computer, so I can back it up, use it on my iPhone or Blackberry, bequeath it to my heirs, write a book about it, or give a copy to Google or Netflix or Yahoo, or you get the idea.

It’s the last thing they don’t want me to do, give a copy to a competitor of theirs. And they hope I won’t notice that I’m doing all this work and not insisting on at least being their equal when it comes to my data.

Sometime in November Google is rumored to be revealing their answer to Facebook. Whatever it is it will surely have an API, and will allow Google apps to share the info, and it will, if it hopes to compete with Facebook, provide some access to this data to app developers. But the true measure of their gravitas will be whether they give full control of the user’s data to the user. If they do that, no matter what’s missing from their software, it won’t suck.

PS: When I write about it, I do it crudely, saying they suck or don’t. When Doc Searls writes about it he calls it Vendor Relationship Management. Doc writes so elegantly because he is a research fellow at Harvard University. šŸ™‚

Twitter Pro? 

A thread was started by Scoble who suggested, in a phone talk yesterday, that he would pay $10 a month for a Twitter that didn’t have the 140 character limit. Seemed like an excellent conversation starter, so I relayed the idea via email to Fred Wilson, cc’d to Scoble.

While I was at breakfast in Palo Alto the two went back and forth, and the idea that always creeps into conversations about Twitter crept into this one. What about SMS? I guess SMS users are limited to 140 characters? Don’t know.

After I posted a pic of pumping gas on my way back to Berkeley, Scoble called me on my cell phone, which is beautifully integrated via Bluetooth with my car’s sound system (to him it sounded like I was at home, not driving on the freeway), and we discussed many things including this conversation which led me to another sequence of ideas.

1. I wonder if anyone reads my twits on SMS. (I sort of doubt it, many of them have links which would be useless on SMS.)

2. If they do, I don’t care if there are parts of my twits that don’t translate (after all, they’re already living with that).

3. And if I had to check a box saying that my twits wouldn’t be available on SMS at all, I’d happily check it. I really only care about the web, and if your cell phone can’t do the web, well, get another cell phone. I’ve always written software for the highest common denominator not the lowest, why should my micro-blogging platform be any different.

After hanging up I wanted to re-iterate — give me payloads for Twitter so we can go where we need to go. Pictures are a very easy and vital way to express what you’re doing right now. And lots of cell phones (like mine) can do nice lo-rez pics. I want payloads.

Update: Fred Wilson himself follows me in SMS. Rex Hammock too.

24 responses to this post.

  1. SMS is limited I don’t know the exact number and different carriers have different limits, but it is somewhere between 120 and 160.

    Links are not useless in all phones. In Nokia phones running Symbian you can actually click on a link in an SMS… Can you do that on the iPhone? I think not. That sucks…


  2. dave – i follow you in sms.

    i am not at my computer very often during the day (that’s why being able to reply to my comments via mobile email and have them posted as replies in my comments is so huge for me).

    you often post something to twitter that is time related and i want to see it then, not later.

    so sms matters to me for sure.



  3. Fred, how about getting an iPhone? šŸ™‚


  4. Dave – if we expand the count, then are we back to a normal blog? If not, what is a good expansion point?

    Click my name for a post I wrote today about network expansion.


  5. Posted by Diego on October 13, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    On most newer mobiles, when you send an SMS which exceeds the limit of one regular SMS (160 characters), the receiver actually gets it as one long SMS. So there is no problem with long text being hard to read by the receiver, because it comes in numerous SMSes. It actually looks like one long one. So there is no problem.


  6. I also follow you on SMS, Dave… except when I’m on a computer logged into GTalk, in which case all my subscribed tweets arrive via IM.

    I like getting tweets via SMS in general. Easily get over 200 of them in the course of a given day. My phone plan doesn’t charge to receive SMS (only to send) so it works for me. šŸ˜Ž


  7. Posted by Marc on October 13, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    I follow you on and off on SMS. On some (many, all?) Sony Ericsson handsets, you can indeed click on links. My phone is, often, my computer.


  8. I think all this talk about adding payloads and extending character limits ruins some of the magic. Twitter’s beauty is in the constraints. Remove those, and you have normal blogs again. Twitter fills a need that was not being met with blogs, and the limits Twitter imposed on the service helped it become what it is, rather than just another blogging platform.


  9. I follow you via SMS but rarely on twitter website. I read the links in the bberry mobile browser.

    Dave – How do u post on the go? Via iphone browser?

    I agree with mark above.


  10. I post from my phone using


  11. Well I’ve no idea what Facebook is even like. I’ve been there but they need you to subscribe to see anything on their site and quite frankly I have no interest. I’ve been to MySpace and I hate that and Facebook seems to be the new MySpace at the moment so I don’t care. Come to think of it I don’t care about Twitter either.


  12. URLs are very useful in SMS twitters especially with the Treo and Twitter handles them well bu converting them to tiny URLs

    The GSM standard allows for 180 octets which operators translate that to 160chrs. The spec allows for multiple messages (although some phones dont’t) – Features allowed for in SMS are:-
    Validity period
    Time stamp
    Protocol identifier
    More messages to send
    Message waiting.

    An aside is the number Twitter use here in the UK is an Isle of Man number which some operators treat as outside the ‘free’ element of your calling plan and charge Ā£0.20+ per message.


  13. Facebook is pointless. Every single thing in Facebook is a poor copy of something that is done better elsewhere. Flickr for photos, Upcoming for events, discussion forums for groups, Twitter for Status. The one thing Facebook does better than any of them is be viral.

    I do wish Twitter wasn’t constrained by the SMS 160 char limit. I’d rather it was 255 characters as 160 is just a bit too limiting. But it is also a great discipline to force yourself to express a single thought in so few characters.


  14. How does twitter pay for all the sms they are sending out? Does the receiver pay in the US?


  15. I like following local twitter-buddies through SMS so I get them as soon as they are sent even if I’m away from the computer. SMS adds notification to twitter on a phone. What would be real cool is the possibility to have the option of getting a link to the twit through SMS instead of the full twit. That would make expanding twit size and content easy for phones. You could even mix and match the two modes depending on twit size and content.


  16. Posted by Diego on October 14, 2007 at 3:55 am

    Ed: I believe that yes, in the US generally the receiver pays. Which seems crazy to me. Here in Australia (as I think in most of the world?) sender pays. Oh well, the US still isn’t using the metric system. One thing at a time šŸ™‚


  17. In the US both the sender and the receiver pay for SMS.

    The whole point of twitter is the cross platform nature of it. If I have to use the data channel and log on to look at twitter, I won’t. SMS is push. The web is pull.


  18. The 140 character limit of Twitter doesn’t bother me, but a feature that I would probably pay $10 a month for: automatic translation of Twitters into any language I specify in my profile.


  19. the ONLY good thing about FaceBook is that I have reconnected/found a load of old friends from school and workplaces who I haven’t heard from for ages.

    Just about ALL the other apps are a waste of time. imho.

    Though I will be having a go at creating a FB app to display podcast directories for our members at šŸ˜‰


  20. Posted by Diego on October 14, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    Erik: Both the sender AND the receiver pays? Wow! I did not know that. It’s crazy.


  21. Posted by Marc on October 14, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    Does tracking work from the web, or is it only available via SMS? The latter I think.


  22. Diego: The US system is crazy but it’s still relatively cheap. I get minutes deducted every time I make or receive a SMS or phone call. On the other hand my monthly plan is cheap. I get 1,000 minutes for $46 (I could pay $4.99 for 400 SMS too but don’t) and if somebody calls my mobile from their landline they pay only as much as they would pay to call another landline. In the UK to call a mobile phone is significantly more expensive than calling a landline, and the mobile monthly rates there are not what I would consider cheap. In Europe texting was very common as it was so cheap compared to making a call, In the US texting has only become mainstream in the last couple of years as making calls is considered pretty cheap so why bother sending a text mesage.


  23. Posted by Alexander van Elsas on October 14, 2007 at 9:54 pm

    Hi Dave, not being able to use your built up network is just one aspet of why social networks like Facebook suck.
    I wrote about it a few days ago here if intereseted:

    It all comes down to the service provider having to leverage the value of the netwokr, insted of providing value to its users. That is why Facebook is a waled garden (how else are they going to monetize the network the users have build for them). But as a user I’m not waiting for this monetization.


  24. I agree about Facebook. I am constantly bewildered by why everyone is making such a big deal out of it. The only advantage it has over other social networks is that it has a clean simple interface. I like the front-end design, but other than that Facebook seems pretty much totally useless to me. Facebook is never going to be able to monetize their network. Advertisers don’t want to advertise there, if they start charging the users people will leave for the next big free site.

    Steve Balmer had it right – it’s totally a fad and when the hype collapses its going to go away.


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