You probably saw this image on Facebook today. My guess is that everyone on Facebook saw this image today. Surprisingly, it wasn’t linked to any content, like perhaps an interesting graphic depicting the evolution of the (World Wide Web), or about Tim Berners-Lee. Without even looking, I’m going to guess that Mr Berners-Lee isn’t pleased with this. But before I get to that, I’ll fill you in on a little experiment I’m doing.
A few days ago, I publicly posted a picture to Facebook and to my personal blog with the title “Columbus, from a Phantom”. As soon as I finished the posts, I did a Google search for that phrase, with quotes. This is what I got.
The half-million results that Google reports at the top are for those four words, separately. But search for that phrase exactly, and no one on the Web had ever written that phrase.
Two days later, and there are three hits, two from my blog, and one from a blogger that had linked to my blog a long time ago and shows my recent posts.
Notice, still no hit for Facebook.
OK, perhaps its too soon. Perhaps Google hasn’t crawled over my Facebook post. So lets try something over a month old. I posted a picture to Facebook with this caption:
The view was awesome. Not a single Pokemon in sight.
Here’s the Google search result:
Zero hits. Nothing. I posted that image as “public” on Facebook. If you scroll down enough on my profile, you’ll see it. If you click the link above, you’ll see it, but there will be an obnoxious banner at the bottom imploring you to get an account already.
But Google doesn’t know about it. Think about it–considering all the content on Facebook, how many times has ANY search engine (other than Facebook) returned content directly on Facebook?
Now I know Google isn’t completely benign, but there is a reason that it has become a verb, and it means “to search for something on the web.”
But Facebook content isn’t “on the web” like Tim Berners-Lee imagined. He created the web and gave it to humanity, “with no patent and no royalties due.” Everything Berners-Lee has done has contributed to the open nature of the Web. Any person could post any thing on any server, and it would be available to all.
And yes, there have always been private spaces on the Internet. But Facebook is by far the largest private space there is. Yes, you can take your content with you. But you aren’t contributing to anything that others can find, outside of Facebook. If I post on Facebook how to solve a technical problem with some application, unless someone writes something outside of Facebook and links to my post, few people will ever see it.
One last thing: most every other content website out there allows you to “share” your content and will provide you with a direct URL.
But not Facebook.
So, to me, having Facebook celebrating the work of Berners-Lee seems disingenuous at best, and downright arrogant at worst.