Unlike Us #2: Understanding Social Media Monopolies and Their Alternatives
Session 4: Software Matters
Anne Helmond (NL) and Carolin Gerlitz (UK) - Reworking the fabric of the web: The Like economy
Conference Day 2: March 10 2012 Amsterdam, 11.00 – 12.30
In recent years, Facebook has increasingly expanded beyond the limits of its platform, first through social buttons and the Open Graph, and more recently through new possibilities of app development, frictionless sharing and differentiated Facebook actions. These digital devices allow Facebook to turn user interactivity instantly into valuable data, creating what we have described as a Like Economy. In this paper, we explore how the platform produces a very particular fabric of the web with its software design by focusing on social buttons, apps and actions. The introduction of social buttons and social plug-ins allowed for a partial opening of the platform as walled garden – carefully regulated by its Graph API – and led to an increasing decentralisation of the web. Yet, the new apps, sharing possibilities and actions introduce a recentralisation as content and user activities are designed to remain within the platform. By tracing the data- and content flows enabled between the platform and the web, we suggest that the Like Economy cuts across straightforward ideas of Facebook as a walled garden but instead creates complex spatial relations, organised through a number of new relationship markers beyond the hyperlink which create new multi-layered dataflows.