Facebook and its struggle to replace the Internet
Many analysts say that behind the continuous launch of new services and features by Facebook there is a long time ambition to defeat Google in the battle for “replacing” the Internet. Because Facebook – like Google – is a major source of information for many people, its plan is to offer users the possibility to do on its site most of the things they do on the Internet: from reading the news to talking with friends to broadcasting videos.
In fact the social network of Palo Alto in recent years has added to its services a lot of the typical Internet features: instant messaging, chatbots and live videos are just the newcomers. Some services – such as the email with the @facebook.com domain – have not worked, but not because of Facebook but for their intrinsic unattractiveness. The point is that the huge Facebook’s userbase allows to easily copy others’ services and still make them a success: think of Periscope – the live video service launched by Twitter – how many users have now switched to Facebook live? Many, for one simple reason: their friends are all already on Facebook.
It’s all easy, then? Palo Alto is set to become the new Internet making websites and search engines obsolete? Not yet: before this, Mark Zuckerberg needs to solve some problems, such as the algorithm management of the Trending Topic section. A few months ago the management of the news in the TT section had been much criticized: many experts had accused Facebook of hiding “right-wing” content and prioritize the rest. A few days ago the content selection has been made fully automated but this did not improve things.
Last week, the algorithm has shown for hours a news about the Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly: but the news was false and had been spread by many right-wing sites, enough to fool even the selection algorithm. The problem of content management therefore remains: if Facebook really intends to show users the “best” of the Internet, it simply cannot give up the human contribution. Otherwise it must give up to propose content to users and let them select themselves: this choice however seems unlikely, because since a long time Facebook has initiated collaborations with news websites and campaigns to assess the effectiveness of its algorithms among its members.