The latest meme hitting the interwebs is that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, thanks to his giant social media apartment buildings, is a slumlord. The definition may fit, and, if so, what does that make Apple CEO Tim Cook?
We may all live in the same city, but our neighborhoods differ and that means different domiciles; residences, home, etc. One can ascribe a neighborhood– gated community or slum-like projects– this way; Bryan Menegus:
Sites like Facebook rely on the so-called network effect, the concept that a service exponentially improves, becoming more useful, attractive, or cheap, the more people join it
Fair enough. Remember back when Apple and the Mac were synonymous? Apple was the Mac. Then iPod came along and Apple added another leg to stand on. Then iPhone, iPad, and now Services and Wearables. Apple’s product line does not smack of shantytown slum or housing projects, but seems to evoke more of a gated community, the so-called walled garden.
What about Facebook? Rebecca Greenfield in 2012:
As the site grows and its network gets bigger, it will also get more annoying and less useful… Facebook’s network effect isn’t exponential, it’s more of a curve, that will, at some point, start its downhill trajectory
No, not in terms of usability; that has increased. Not in terms of market dominance; nothing else is close but competitors thrive (not that Facebook hasn’t tried to put them out of existence).
Downhill in terms of trust, yes, and usability, too– usefulness vs. features to keep users glued to the website.
Trust in Facebook, from the public and its own workers, has plummeted and lawmakers seem intent on shaking up Zuckerberg’s empire.
Just as they would anyone with power. That’s what they do. Unless those with power buy their safety through payoffs, contributions, lobbyists, and the like.
Apparently, Facebook has not paid enough into the government’s coffers. So, where is all this going?
Let’s plainly define what Facebook is: an entity which extracts monetizable data in exchange for a place to store and grow our digital lives. At its most basic, the relationship resembles that of a tenant to a landlord. So what kind of accommodation does our personal information afford?
Facebook is a landlord, yes; creator and manager of a place where, for better or worse, people spend their lives. No collection of cities in any country is as big as Facebook, so how does Mark Zuckerberg become a slumlord.
The problems stem from the same amoral instinct to extract as much value from as many people as possible, consequences be damned. Any true account in the textbooks of the future would be forced to commemorate Mark Zuckerberg as history’s most prolific slumlord.
Let’s define that.
A slumlord (or slum landlord) is a derogatory term for a landlord, generally an absentee landlord with more than one property, who attempts to maximize profit by minimizing spending on property maintenance, often in deteriorating neighborhoods, and to tenants that they can intimidate. Severe housing shortages allow slumlords to charge higher rents, and when they can get away with it, to break rental laws.
Zuckerberg’s empire has many properties, and the company makes every attempt to maximize profit and not spend on maintaining a healthy place for users; many sections of the property are places that could be described as toxic hell stew of misinformation, and the company extorts users to enable ever more private information to be extracted and monetized.
Slumlords are slumlords by choice; preferring to maximize profits over doing business– as Mike Holmes would say– the right way. Or, “Do it right.”
For Zuckerberg, a man who often says a lot without saying anything at all, there’s no hesitation: between a smaller but potentially more ethically run version of Facebook, and the larger, more profitable one that’s been implicated in data breaches, discrimination, radicalization, electioneering, and genocide, he picks the latter.
What does that perspective make Apple’s Tim Cook? Slumlord?
By almost any perspective Cook and Apple are premium property builders, able to extract a healthy profit by providing customers with a better experience; hardware and software. Many of us cannot choose to live in the best of neighborhoods with the most pleasant facilities, but online we all have the same choices.