At F8 this year Facebook announced several new updates, one of which was what it dubbed ‘Seamless Sharing’. This is Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of the future. A future in which we no longer need to curate the web (sorry web 3.0) but instead share what we are doing instantly & effortlessly. Obviously this may sound great to a user but it’s much greater for Facebook (tonnes more data) and publishers/developers the world over who also want their content shared more freely, more easily.
It all sounds lovely and rosey. That is, until you realise something about the nature of how this vision works. Something i only truly realised today. Seamless Sharing is merely copying one of the many malware models: The Worm. Now, i am going to give you a brief explanation of how a worm works because i see so many tweets being sent to friends that have spammed them saying “you’re account has been hacked” that it’s quite clear most people are clueless. I’ll stick with twitter as a platform for explaining worms. So, when most people say they have been ‘hacked’ what they really mean is “I don’t know enough about how the internet works and i have fallen foul to a phishing/worm combo”. Here comes the science…
The phishing bit: The user clicks on a link they see from a virtual chum, they are then sent to a spammers site which is made to look like a twitter login page, they stupidly don’t check the URL, enter their account details & then they land on an error page or a funny pic for example. Because nothing bad happens they don’t even think they have been dumb enough to freely give their details to a spammer.
The worm bit: The worm is a programme/script that takes the login details the user has supplied it with, logs into the users account and then ‘replicates’ by sending out links to all of the users followers. The cycle then continues.
I haven’t fallen foul to this so i do not know whether they try to install Rootkit‘s later down the line but that would be the natural progression for anyone running a worm op. Check out the Rootkit link if you want to learn more about what i am on about (if you don’t already know).
But how does any of this relate to Facebook?
Today i was having a quick browse through Facebook and as per usual the top of the stories feed was clogged with news articles. With the new Seamless Sharing features having been lapped up by the likes of The Guardian & The Independent i can now see who has ‘read’ what articles by which publishers. One of them catches my eye. It’s an article by the Independent entitled “Ireland mourns comic talent as ‘Father Ted’ actor dies, aged 45“. Instantly i think this is weird because i remember that he died ages ago. So i click on the link out of curiousity, accept the ‘app’ request and am taken to the article where it is confirmed to me that indeed, this is old news. Monday 2nd March 1998 to be precise, which is over 13 years ago! At this point i would normally have just thought it was weird and gone on my merry way. That is, until i looked at my timeline. Not only had the article been added to my ‘recent activity’ list but it had also been posted to my timeline (wall) as a main feature. WTF.
Now you see how the worm starts to turn. My friends then see the article and replicate the process. If you think this is a one off case then you’ll be pleased to know that this article (13 years old) is currently the most viewed on The Independent’s website and the 4th most shared! This was not just coincidence. This was a worm in action and a legitimate one at that. Not only is it legitimate but it is the basis of the very future Facebook has planned out for us. How can such an old article which bears no relation to any current events become this popular so quickly and more importantly gain access to so many people’s accounts? It may be a old article today, but what about tomorrow? Remember, this is the nature of how a worm works.
This makes me question the sustainability of the Seamless Sharing model.
Either Seamless Sharing will just become legitimised spam (if it isn’t already that) in which a higher degree of content is auto-posted and human interactions become diminished or another layer of curation will need to be placed on top of it (which defeats the object for the user).
I don’t believe the future is spam so for the time being Seamless Sharing can feck off.