Mark Zuckerberg seems to have sealed the fate of the most popular social medium, Facebook, by pleading guilty. The outrage of governments and peoples at the breach of trust of millions of Facebook users is now more justified. The data leak aimed at political targeting either by the British Cambridge Analytica or the Russian Internet Research Agency was worse. Curiously, the Facebook owner made himself available for questioning grossly underprepared, and the Senators are not amused — even as there is one more committee in the United States that Zuckerberg will have to appear before, having faced two rounds of excruciating interrogation already. From the question on the number of audits Facebook has undergone to that on the tracking mechanism after the user logs out to one on overlaps between data sold to different third parties, Zuckerberg could either not answer, or he sounded tentative or he excused himself for the occasion, requesting yet another hearing for better explanations! Maybe the man who has just fallen from grace had taken the US legislators for granted, given that he had been conceding he is responsible for several instances of data manipulation for the past 14 years.
But for all his happy-go-lucky attitude, should the public ire be directed at Zuckerberg’s social medium alone? The singularity of the ‘bad guy’, as Hollywood puts it to describe the negative character of a plot, is questioning people’s intelligence in the era of mobile applications, few of which can be downloaded and installed if the user refuses them access to his/her personal data. The other angle of the story nobody has yet explored is market competition. A market bears fruits for the consumer when he/she is spoilt for choice. If Facebook is gone, the argumentative world will be left with Twitter, with the narcissists revelling on Instagram and Pinterest while obscurity would be the narrative on Behance, Delicious, DeviantArt, Digg, Dribble, Evernote, Forrst, Google+, GrooveShark, LastFM, Mail, MySpace, Path, Reddit, SoundCloud, Spotify, StackOverflow, Vkontakte, etc. LinkedIn is for corporate talk. MySpace long lost the competition to Facebook. Blogger was rendered obsolete by WordPress. Flickr and Tumblr, in all probability, cannot survive Instagram. But was the rat race always fair?
Towards the end of the last decade, Google’s Orkut had perished, unable to bear with the onslaught of some motivated journalists and commentators who had held it singularly responsible for some abusers of the medium. Around the time, Facebook and Twitter had surfaced with distinct packages, respectively for the verbose and the shoot-and-scoot brigade. Pictures of hollow posturing by celebrities and cute babies of commoners pervaded the mediums until the political people of the world hijacked both. What went missing was the methodical sorting of topics for debate that Orkut communities used to offer. Social media users cannot be happy about the shrinking of the menu on the platter. Whereas Twitter is great for breaking news, the oft-complained trolling it witnesses has never led any harassed celebrity demand a shutdown of the medium. The death of Orkut under the pretext of addressing stalkers, bullies and impersonators (when these crimes are as easy on other mediums) and the precariousness of Facebook’s destiny (while it may not be alone in letting thieves manipulate you using your classified information) beg the question whether Twitter is squeaky clean. Not only the pattern in the demise of competitors but also the profile of the class of people that make a medium come across as a scandal in itself must raise eyebrows. Twitter is a favourite of high-profile journalists whose posts on Facebook are banal. This, despite Zuckerberg’s act of reaching out to several journalists a few years ago, inviting them to use his medium as much for political commentary! They did not oblige Mark just as they had stayed away from Orkut in the late 2000s. And they enthusiastically shared their Twitter handles on television screens while never talking of the other social media profiles they have. Can one be sure this promotion of one particular medium is done for free? If not, can’t money be used to kill the competition as well?