Shoptalk: Bridges Mark Zuckerberg Destroyed

By: Hossein Derakhshan
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Mark Zuckerberg appeared presidential earlier this year when he gave a speech at an annual Facebook event. He said traveling around the world has worried him: “I am starting to see people and nations turning inward — against this idea of a connected world and a global community.”

He showed dismay for “fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as ‘others.’” Then, like a powerful world leader, he called on everyone: “Instead of building walls, we can help people build bridges. And instead of dividing people, we can help bring people together.”

That is all quite ironic to me, and I’ll tell you why. In 2014, I was pardoned and released from a prison in Tehran where I spent six years over my web activism. Before I was imprisoned in 2008, all the hype and rage on the internet was found on blogs.

Blogs were the best thing that had ever happened on the internet. They democratized writing and publishing — at least in many parts of the world. They gave a voice to many silenced groups and minorities. They connected friends, families, communities, and nations around the world. They encouraged discussions and debates.

All that was made possible because of a brilliant and powerful, but simple and modest innovation: hyperlinks. Those underlined, blue bits of text that made your cursor look like a hand with an outstretched pointed finger, and took you to outside sources and material on the web. The very fact that in 2016, one needs to explain to a new generation what hyperlinks (or simply links) were is already sad enough. But acknowledging that links are now practically dead is heartbreaking to anyone who remembers those times.

The World Wide Web was founded on the links, and without links, there won’t be a web. Without links the experience of being on the internet will become one of a centralized, linear, passive, inward-looking and homogeneous kind. This is happening already, and despite Zuckerberg’s sermon, it is largely Facebook and Instagram who are to be blame for the demise of links, and thereby the death of the open web and all its potentials for a more peaceful world.

Zuckerberg killed links (and the web) because he has created a space that is more like the future of television rather than the internet. Unlike what he preaches, Facebook has divided us into small personal bubbles of comfort. We don’t need to do anything, but to swipe with our thumbs (soon even that wouldn’t be necessary with eyeball detection systems).

All the videos, images, and articles we see in our newsfeeds are picked for us based on our habits, based on our previous likes and reshares, which have taught Facebook about our preferences. Naturally, most of us only like what or who we agree with, and Facebook therefore rarely upsets, challenges, or surprises us.

While Zuckerberg laments at walls and admires bridges, the fact is that his Facebook algorithms have created billions of these comfort bubbles that are even more isolating than walls. Also, he has destroyed the most powerful bridges that perhaps ever existed in the human history, the hyperlinks.

Facebook’s desire to keep users inside of it all the time is why it can generate so much advertising money. But that means it provides less and less reasons for anyone to leave its environment, in order to read an article or watch a video.

Not only does Facebook prioritize native content in its newsfeeds, but it is introducing ideas such as Instant Articles or Live to bring all the content scattered around on distant corners of the web onto its own platform. Zuckerberg’s vision is not to connect people in distant islands, but to bring everyone onto a big island so nobody would ever need to use a bridge to go anywhere else.

What Zuckerberg is doing, especially in the developing world, is to make people think that Facebook means the internet — and he has been quite successful. More than half of Indians and Brazilians now equate the internet with Facebook.

For me, as someone who spent six years in prison at a time when being online was a serious and intellectual activity, it is heart-breaking to see how Facebook has changed the internet into little more than a portal for entertainment.

Zuckerberg killed the open web and all the bridges it had created in order to make money. But when he, with an innocent face, starts warning the world about walls, divisions and intolerance, it feels like a dark Orwellian nightmare. The open web could have been a remedy at a time when closed borders rule. But Mark Zuckerberg destroyed it.
Hossein Derakhshan (@h0d3r) is an Iranian-Canadian author, freelance journalist and media analyst. He is the author of “The Web We Have to Save (Matter).”

Published: December 20, 2016

16 thoughts on “Shoptalk: Bridges Mark Zuckerberg Destroyed

  • December 21, 2016 at 12:15 pm
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    Hmm, think I have been on Facebook 4 times in the 6 years I have had a facebook page. There are plenty of hyperlinks still out there. ( I should explain that the boss “encouraged” Facebook pages for his technical staff.

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    • December 23, 2016 at 12:05 pm
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      Old people who are ready to retire still think it took 25 years to go from AM to FM. If you checked Facebook only 4 times in 6 years. The try to bring inward traffic, and will do anything to prevent outward traffic. Paypal is another dirty system that tries very hard to draw from your Bank account instead of Credit Card and will never make that process easy. Sooner or later people will get fed up with this and switch to easier options. As a publication you are only going to lose if you feed content into Facebook. Unlike Facebook our Events4.Us event solution, it will be super easy to use from the SIMPLICITY of our white label platform, extend PUBLICITY from your publication and generate multitude of revenue from sponsorships and ticketing/transactional revenue for your local events..

      Reply
  • December 21, 2016 at 2:10 pm
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    I quit using my Facebook account as soon as I found out Mark Zuckerberg had personally ordered the targeting of Conservatives and Conservative Groups on his Facebook Website!

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    • February 6, 2017 at 4:06 pm
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      I consider myself an independent but my conservative friends would probably consider me a liberal and facebook took down one of my posts. Since then I have tried not to cross the line 🙂

      Reply
  • December 21, 2016 at 2:20 pm
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    Blockchain technology will lead to a rebirth of the web, and this time not even the domain name servers will be centralized, upon which hyperlinks depend. The entire web will be peer to peer. Don’t worry, technology usually has the answer, even to technological problems.

    Reply
  • December 21, 2016 at 2:33 pm
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    Hmm. I just deactivated my FB account because I resented the over structured feeds. Thanks for the sense of vindication.

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    • December 21, 2016 at 4:08 pm
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      The internet should be a place to work. I only use Facebook as a work tool It is strictly a promotional tool Even the 20 somethings feel it is not a serious platform which will be replaced by more simple which gives less information about the individual to other users.

      Reply
  • December 21, 2016 at 3:52 pm
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    The bridges aren’t destroyed, many people just stopped using them. I don’t use FB for giving me information with the exception of private ones about family and friends. I will never allow anybody to decide for me, which blog or portal I may use and where I get the information I’d like to get. Used like that FB isn’t a problem. All information is still available and “unfiltered” in the web – the only thing you have to do is open your eyes and look and read. And think.

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  • December 21, 2016 at 4:28 pm
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    I do not use FB it is not worth using. Zuckerberg is not a billionaire for looking out to better the world or promoting open thought.

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  • December 21, 2016 at 5:09 pm
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    Facebook is to the under educated rabble who waste time on it what Lester Holt is to the low information news consumer. It does not matter that Zuckerberg builds a wall or an island. No meaningful research was going to happen there anyway, hyperlinks or no hyperlinks. That does not mean Zuckenberg is not a schmuhck.

    Reply
  • December 21, 2016 at 5:10 pm
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    Facebook is to the under educated rabble who waste time on it what Lester Holt is to the low information news consumer. It does not matter that Zuckerberg builds a wall or an island. No meaningful research was going to happen there anyway, hyperlinks or no hyperlinks.

    Reply
  • December 21, 2016 at 5:30 pm
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    The sole reason I have a facebook account is that some websites will not let you leave comments without a facebook sign on. I never check it, it is private to the world, and none of my friends or family know my sign on.

    To think they used to call the creators of the rail, oil, and steel industries “robber barons” but Zuckerbook is treated like a diva.

    Reply
  • December 21, 2016 at 11:20 pm
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    the only reason I’m reading this article is that a friend of mine posted the link on Facebook. So you really think FB has destroyed links? Busted.

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  • December 22, 2016 at 4:32 am
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    Scaling FB up with commercialization marked the beginning of its end. in a few years it will be remembered as an embarrassment.

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  • December 22, 2016 at 5:54 am
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    While Facebook might have these features, the idea that mass amounts of people don’t venture off of it is ridiculous hysteria. With the wide ranging and growing Apps available and of course, search engine giants like Google, I see no fear that Facebook will control the world. Most young adults barely even use it. My twenty something kids primarily use Instagram and SnapChat. While I am not a fan of Zuckerberg, it is not his job to create a product that satisfies societies needs. He has a product that a lot of people use, but I see all those same people using lots of other product. Interesting technological discussion, but the hysteria and moral recriminations are over the top.

    Reply
  • December 22, 2016 at 5:55 am
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    Believed computers taking over was a hoax. A, “new toy” for conspiracy theorists. Was wrong & it’s here, in the guise of free thought: Algorithms.

    Reply

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