For long months now, Facebook Comments have been riddled by some of the most transparent, eye-roll-inducing “I make a good salary working from home” spam you’ve ever seen. Every mail service can filter it out; but Facebook? Home to cutting-edge AI research, massively scalable services, some of the smartest software people in the world? Nope, spam appears to be beyond their capabilities.
I kid, I kid. Obviously Facebook could clean up comment spam if they really wanted to. (And, in fairness, Facebook Comments have always been terrible.) Maybe they even will, on some executive whim. But, really, who can blame them for not bothering? Facebook has become a business which focuses on things that affect billions of users, and/or bring in billions in revenue. Comments don’t come even close to moving the needle on that scale.
But Facebook Comments are an excellent object example of a curious tech paradox: the bigger the business, the less you can rely on its new initiatives.
Consider the curious case of the Revolv, a home-automation controller which was bought by Nest, which in turn is part of mighty Alphabet … and is now deliberately being bricked by its controllers. This is numerous things: an instance of Nest apparently being a slow-motion flaming trainwreck; This is a great reminder that the “Internet of Things” is actually the “Internet of Someone Else’s Things“: if you don’t have root on a device in your home, then it is not yours. It is also a reminder that the bigger the business, the more you should fear it if it acquires something you love.
Google, of course, was also home to much-beloved Google Reader, which it dispatched a few years ago as casually as if it were a mook in a martial-arts film:
On the one hand this was simply a bad strategic mistake on Google’s part, at a time when they thought that Google+ was the future. (Cue the flood of people trying to claim that Google+ was actually a success, in some bizarre war-is-peace kind of way. It was a debacle, folks.) But on the other hand Gmail actually matters to Google; it would far rather make its billion users feel a little better about the service than cater to Reader’s tens of millions of users.
Which in turn explains why the great Maciej Ceglowski aka Pinboard is not exactly shuddering in his proverbial boots now that Google has launched a new kind of bookmarking service itself:
It may seem that one would be better off relying on a service brought to you by one of the Stacks than something from a tiny, scrappy startup. But this is not so unless this service is crucial to one of their major business lines. (Unless it’s PayPal, in which case you shouldn’t rely on it at all, he said bitterly, fuelled by a painful recent dayjob project.)
Otherwise, any BigCo service can and will be victimized by the vagaries of internal politics. Bit rot affects us all; being left to languish is just a slow death sentence in its own right. You’re arguably better off relying on a failed startup that dies a quick death than being dragged down by an abandoned service that slowly circles the toilet. At least that way you’re granted the gift of a known outcome. For further evidence, I invite you: just scroll down.