Skip to content
Thoughtful, detailed coverage of everything Apple for 34 years
and the TidBITS Content Network for Apple professionals

Facebook Change Ensures Tracking by Preventing URL Stripping

Many sites add parameters to marketing campaigns for tracking purposes. Along with the UTM parameters that you’ve likely seen at some point, notable examples include the Facebook Click Identifier (fbclid), Google Click Identifier (gclid), and Microsoft Click Identifier (msclkid). Whenever we put links in TidBITS, we remove all unnecessary parameters to prevent our readers from being further sucked into the social media sausage machine. More important, Brave has automatically stripped tracking parameters from URLs since 2020, and Mozilla just added URL stripping to Firefox 102.

So much for that. According to Martin Brinkmann at, Facebook has changed its URL scheme to prevent Brave, Firefox, and others from stripping URL parameters. Instead of using parameters that can be identified and removed, Facebook now combines the page address with the tracking parameters in an encrypted blob. Remove that blob from a Facebook URL and anyone who clicks will end up on Facebook, but not at the desired page.

Considering this move in the light of yet another insightful condemnation of social media, we encourage everyone to focus on real people in the real world and avoid social media like the corrosive pestilence that it is.

Read original article

Subscribe today so you don’t miss any TidBITS articles!

Every week you’ll get tech tips, in-depth reviews, and insightful news analysis for discerning Apple users. For over 33 years, we’ve published professional, member-supported tech journalism that makes you smarter.

Registration confirmation will be emailed to you.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA. The Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Comments About Facebook Change Ensures Tracking by Preventing URL Stripping

Notable Replies

  1. I’m not all that surprised. And news articles like this just reinforce my decision to disconnect from FB many years ago.

    Unfortunately, stripping off trackers sometimes can block access to content. There is at least one news web site I visit that does this. When I click through from a news aggregation site, the UTM parameter identifying the aggregator causes the site to pop up a box saying that I’m being allowed past the paywall for that one article, as a courtesy to the aggregation site. If I strip off the tracking tags, then the box says that I need a paid-up subscription to access it.

    FB must really be getting desperate to be going to these lengths. I wonder how much they are losing because they based their entire business model on abusing their customers.

  2. I’ve noticed this myself. It seems that it should be possible, with a userscript or other plugin, to simulate a click on every encrypted link, capture the redirected URL, and rewrite the page with that. That would add a few seconds to page load (I’m guessing the perceived lag could be reduced using something like “lazy loading”), and would also reduce the value of click-tracking.

  3. The biggest reason Facebook is in such a predicament to begin with is Apple:

  4. It’s not Apples fault I deleted the FB app off my phone 4 years ago, it’s Facebooks fault for being so invasive that even with all notifications turned off, the phone would still manage to light up when I received one.

    Hopefully someone finds a way around it


  5. we encourage everyone to focus on real people in the real world and avoid social media like the corrosive pestilence that it is.

    Hear, hear - Such tactics of hard embedding tracking features just confirmed my decision to delete my social media accounts after Facebook published that New York Times advertisement. I did not become less employable or sociable because I stopped using LinkedIn and Facebook - quite the contrary.

  6. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s any way to extract the tracking information, since it’s part of the actual URL for a page. For instance, here’s the link to this article’s stub on Facebook.

    Load that and you’ll see that the URL doesn’t change—there’s nothing to rewrite.

    I’m with Diane. Much as I’m glad that Apple is making life difficult for Facebook, I see absolutely no reason Facebook wouldn’t have done this anyway. It’s in the company’s DNA to exploit every possible way of extracting information about Internet users.

  7. Right, but that’s an internal Facebook link. I was thinking of outbound links, which also seem to have unfixable URL munging—I should have been clearer.

  8. I must admit that as someone who uses Facebook only under duress, I find large chunks of the interface entirely inscrutable. So I’m not entirely sure of what the difference is between an internal Facebook link and an outbound link.

  9. The powers that be at Facebook were extraordinarily stupid to assume Apple, whose longtime commitment to privacy and security for users has been a longstanding and huge selling point for their services and hardware, would not launch another nuclear attack.

  10. There’s another ugly thing going on behind the scenes. At least some security systems rely on tracking information from Facebook and the like to identify who you are for purposes like accessing your bank or buying online. I discovered it a couple years back when struggling with unsolvable Captchas, but I’ve never seen it written up. By the way, this is not just the stuff on Facebook itself; tracking is very extensive.

  11. and avoid social media like the corrosive pestilence that it is.

    Love the phrase corrosive pestilence. Perfect. Like many, I use faceplant because of family, but I hate the place. I long ago learned to copy url’s, paste them into my browser, strip backwards and try to open whatever page it is without the FB reference. Doesn’t always work, and I’ve started skipping those sites where I can’t strip away the FB tracking reference.

    Thanks for the heads up.

  12. From the beginnings, I. knew FB was a bad deal. The first thing I delete on every new Apple device or disable is FB. Never used it and get along just fine without it.

  13. What is there to delete on a “new Apple device”? Apple never pre-installs any FB app or website to my knowledge.

  14. and avoid social media like the corrosive pestilence that it is.

    But tell us how you really feel.

    I appreciate the many informative articles I’ve read on Tidbits for decades now but was disappointed by this comment at the end of this one.

    For me, personally, Social Media has allowed me to connect and re-connect with people personally and deeply from all over the world in a manner I never would have had the opportunity to do so if these platforms didn’t exist.

    Despite any platform’s need for change including legitimate concerns about privacy and data, writing off an entire genre of how literally billions of people in the world connect with each other is not the kind of commentary I’m looking for on Tidbits.

  15. I mostly keep FB in a ‘deactivated’ state, re-logging in every now and then to check on some language learning communities I’m in that don’t seem able to communicate any other way, sadly.

    It’s a moderate pain to reactivate and deactivate, but after doing it routinely for so long, I’ve got it pretty streamlined; and it turns out to be a really nice amount of discouragement re checking FB too often. (Pro-tip: When deactivating and they ask for reason, always click “Other” and then just type in some random letters…that way you don’t get suggestions for improving your experience.)

    OTOH, maybe the deactivated state doesn’t help much in terms of privacy protection. I dunno…

  16. Sorry, but that’s precisely how I feel, and the problems with social media go far, far beyond issues with privacy and data use to cut at the very underpinnings of civil society and democracy. Sure, there are positive aspects to platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but there are positive aspects to toxic waste dumps too.

  17. I’m with you…deleted my personal FB account long ago. Bride and I have a travel blog and there is an almost info free profile for the blog but I log in and out of FB when necessary and essentially never check it. I do have a twitter account but follow very few people and rarely post anything myself. I stay logged out of google and YouTube even though the latter makes it impossible to subscribe to channels but I just live with that inconvenience. Don’t use google for search at all since they track you as well even if logged out…I use instead as they privatize requests and then send that to google before returning results.

    You really cannot stay private and use the internet anyway…all one can do is minimize as much as possible your exposure and never, ever, click on an advertising link in a browser and use ad/tracking blockers…they limit your ability to see some sites of course but that’s another side effect.

  18. The world is flat.

    Tobacco smoking is good for your health.

    The planets in our solar system revolve around the earth.

    John Fitzgerald Kennedy is alive and well and was never assassinated.

    Apollo 11 never landed on the moon and American Astronauts never walked on on the moon.

    Throughout history, false information has continually spread like wildfire. And here’s just a few very recent and compelling examples of why social media, and Facebook in particular, continue to spread disinformation, hatred, and can deliver calls to action that are detrimental to society:

    Whistle-Blower to Accuse Facebook of Contributing to Jan. 6 Riot;

    Amid The Capitol Riot Facebook Faced Its Own Insurrection:

    And my many and sincere thanks to Adam and the gang, as well at to all TidBITS Talkers, for all the good advice, information and comradeship that’s always available here.

  19. At a personal level, I see a conflict of interest between my intention of using social media vs. interests of those social media companies.

    Like most people, I want to use social media to keep in contact with family and friends around the world and connect with people with similar interests. However, providing such online services to me cost money, and there is no free lunch - someone has to pay for it.

    I think it would be laughable to suppose that Facebook or any other social media operators care deeply about enabling me to connect with family and friends. (Perhaps that can be true when a service is new - after all how many business are started with bad intentions?) As the business expands providing such connection increasingly becomes cost of doing business; what drives social media companies are primarily our attention, our clicks and the resulting profit to other businesses - those who pay social media companies in exchange for our attention.

    I resent such ‘indirect’ business models and conflict of interest. I understand that providing such services cost money, and am willing and able to pay for it in exchange for a plain vanilla service, without detriment to my data, attention and well being. However, with few exceptions this is not possible in the largest social media platforms.

    I suppose this is one of many reasons I purchase Apple products. They are not inexpensive, but at least there are reasons to believe that Apple is amply compensated and there is less incentive for them to do anything funny with my data and attention. The alignment of interest is not perfect (planned obsolescence?), but at least it is there.

    I make it a point to subscribe to and financially support businesses/creators whose contents I value, such as The Economist and TidBITS. With enough support we can even unlock the commons so the content becomes public good and one does not have to pay to enjoy it. I like such simple and transparent business models much better.

    (May I also take this opportunity to thank @ace and friends for publishing TidBITS. Please don’t become another social media company!)

  20. You have every right to feel that way and live your life accordingly. Every invention and aspect of human interaction has been coopted by bad players in one way or another. We could eliminate transportation altogether to make all kinds of improvements to the planet. I bet if we go back to cave paintings we’d find some exaggeration in presentation or interpretation that led to unintentional consequences. Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater (or use silly metaphors.)

    This just isn’t the kind of commentary I was looking for when reading or visiting what I regard to be a useful, even-handed publication for Apple-related news and experience. When I saw your response in email I actually didn’t even remember what the original article was about which may be a teachable moment in the effect your end-of-article comment had on the usefulness of the article itself.

  21. With the good skeptical analysis and in-depth advice of many tech websites, of which was one, at the very dawn of “social media” being thrust upon us, I made the decision to not participate. I’ve never been a member of any social media or “sharing” site. No Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc.

    And yet, I’m still personally and deeply connected with family and friends using a wondrous invention called “email”. And texting. And yes, telephone calls.

    In this way, I’m able to share with all those people who are truly important to me without also sharing with the wide world. Or becoming brainwashed, depressed, suicidal, infuriated or delusional.

    I’ve never regretted my decision.

  22. I’m conflicted – on one hand, I find Facebook an easy and convenient way to stay in touch with a broad range of people around the world, and get peeks into their lives on a regular basis. It’s like being part of a big conversation that hums along all the time and can be quite lovely.

    On the other hand, I’m aware of the toxic sides of it, and the general sense that if the product is free, then you’re not the customer.

    Still, I’m planning on remaining on Facebook for the moment.

  23. Exact same thing here. Never been on any of these social media networks. Never felt I wasn’t connected to the people dear to me. Definitely no regrets here. In fact, the more I read the more I realize just how much of a bullet I dodged.

    Of course truthfully, I have to realize I can only isolate myself so much. I can prevent my personal information from being whored out by these companies, but I cannot escape the fact that thanks to their direct support (and then their complacency) my country recently almost suffered a coup by a completely unhinged mob of lunatics that were—I have zero doubt here—to large extent enabled by “social media”. Throughout history, there have always been idiots. But only recently, have these people been given a bullhorn to address every other person on the planet along with a reward if they do so in the most abrasive manner possible. And it shows.

  24. In this way, I’m able to share with all those people who are truly important to me without also sharing with the wide world. Or becoming brainwashed, depressed, suicidal, infuriated or delusional.

    I would also like to report that as an avid social media user I have managed to not become brainwashed, depressed, suicidal, infuriated or delusional either. (At least that’s what they want me to think…)

  25. It was about Facebook’s latest move to block technologies that attempt to give people control over how much they’re tracked online. And with an encouragement to read the thoughtful Atlantic article discussing even more of the deleterious effects social media is having on society.

    My opinion about Facebook and social media isn’t the focus of TidBITS, which is why it was limited to a few words at the end of an ExtraBIT pointing at another article. I seldom write full articles on the topic because the necessary research makes me both angry and depressed.

    Regardless, TidBITS publishes what I find interesting or worth sharing, even when that goes beyond our traditional Apple-related topics. Always has, always will.

  26. Good for you, Adam. And now you know the effect it’s had on a single reader.

  27. That Atlantic grossly underestimates the level of stupid throughout American history.

  28. I’m not sure if the problems with social media are generally inherent to the medium but rather to the current implementations of it. The algorithms promote content designed to keep people engaged but have the side effect of creating a distorted view of the world.

    When Neil deGrasse Tyson was asked about Kyrie “the world is flat” Irving, he noted that Irving said he was led to that belief by watching a flat-earth video on YouTube, which then led to the site promoting more of the same. I recall a similar story of a woman who looked into some topic (I can’t remember which) and the next thing she knew, FaceBook was pushing all sorts of anti-vax content at her.

    So the algorithms are definitely a problem, but I think FaceBook gets a lot of deserved criticism because the company seems to make a lot of questionable decisions, like the one mentioned in the TidBITS article.

  29. Facebook evolved from FaceSmash, a website Harvard college student Mark Zuckerberg developed so guys could rate the hotness and availability of female students on campus and in nearby colleges in Boston.

    FaceSmash was developed after a girl Zuckerberg was dating that was not a Harvard student dumped him unceremoniously, and he wasn’t successful in attracting women. He was quite vicious in rating her. I highly recommend watching Aron Sorkin’s documentary film “The Social Network” for more details about this as well as others who were highly instrumental in working with Zuckerberg to found and develop the service and got screwed royally and financially by him. The book the movie was based on is excellent as well.

    Zuckerberg even managed to alienate his most influential guru, Steve Jobs, because of privacy and security issues. This happened shortly after Steve had been vocally praising Facebook to the skies:

    And Tim Cook has not been a fan of Facebook either:

    “Apple CEO Tim Cook has doubled down on his call for regulation that would limit Facebook and others companies’ ability to use customer data:”

  30. Zuckerberg didn’t create that kind of content – there were printed versions of it long before the Internet. I know of at least one version at Cornell in the 1980s, which it turns out dates back to the 1950s.

    I’m never sure how much social media creates problems versus amplifying existing ones.

  31. It was the first digital and first interactive/social media version, and it was super easy to use. The girl who dumped Zuckerberg was humiliated and became a laughing stock among schools, and many, many other women suffered because content was not regulated. But Zuckerberg did meet on FaceSmash the very accomplished woman he married.

    It also expanded rapidly to include different colleges and universities. The rest is history, and it did create and amplify problems. January 6 is one very recent example.

  32. I tend to agree that there’s very little that’s new under the sun, but amplification is a very big deal. One of the easy changes that social media companies could make that would address many of the concerns would be to eliminate the Like and Share options, both of which encourage amplification over communication. But I seriously doubt any will ever do this because amplification encourages engagement, which results in more overall usage and higher ad impressions.

  33. Yes, the exponential amplification of harmful/false narratives is definitely one of the major unsolved problems inherent in the incarnations of social media extant to date, especially when it becomes well siloed.

  34. That’s a valid point.

    Up to now, I had failed to understand why the commons itself was being held responsible for the opinions expressed therein. Historically, anyone could express any opinion they wanted to in the public square. The person expressing it was right there in front of you. You knew with certainty who they were. If what they said was slanderous, you could sue them. If what they said amounted to insurrection or fomenting a riot, they could be arrested and held accountable.

    But now it is indeed different. The electronic “commons” both amplifies and anonymizes. I am deeply uncomfortable with people of a given ideology being handed the ruler by which speech is measured for conformity with truth, or being given the power to suppress the free expression of opinions that many people–even the majority of people–find objectionable. Yet, a natural check of the historical commons was its parochial nature; the electronic commons is potentially world-wide and instant. I honestly don’t know what the answer is.

  35. That’s not really true. Post-printing press invention, there’s a thriving tradition of anonymous pamphlets that attacked people without them knowing who it was. American society of the 18th and early 19th centuries witnessed lots of vicious attacks in anonymous pamphlets & newspaper articles. Alexander Hamilton was pretty good at it, for that matter.

    It’s notable that a lot of periods immediately after the creation of a technology that allowed mass amplification of ideas (the printing press in the 15th & 16th centuries; substantially cheaper printing tech in the 1880s & 1890s) also witnessed similar political polarization and unrest (the religious chaos of the 16th century, the jingoism of the late 19th, early 20th centuries).

    The technology is new. The effect isn’t.

  36. As a historian, I think you make a good point about the introduction of new communication technologies destabilizing some aspects of the existing social order. There was a thriving clandestine publication market in early modern Europe—not only anonymous publications, but falsified publishers and places of publication, and networks to smuggle printed works into places where they were prohibited (or might be).

    Nonetheless, the cost of entry was higher—much higher—and the potential reach much more limited. And while it was possible for something to have a kind of “virality” through reprinting and piracy, the time frame was much longer and the impact smaller. I do think that the cost of entry is so low in modern social media, compared to the past, that the impact can be a lot greater. The philosopher Neil Levy just published an interesting book (available open access in PDF) titled Bad Beliefs that argues, among other things, that we live in an epistemically polluted environment. I think social media, as well as “traditional” broadcast media, bears a lot of responsibility for the ease of pollution.

  37. I think historically literacy rates were much lower than now, which limits the effects of such publications.

    It seems to me that we have achieved a high degree of nominal literacy (at least in developed countries), but still ways to go as far as functional literacy and critical thinking are concerned.

    Bad Beliefs is available at:

  38. Yes, I’ve long had this image of a prehistoric mob outside a cave where there’s a hearth fire, chanting in whatever primitive proto-language they use something meaning, “The only good fire is a dead fire!”, warning of the disasters that will follow intentional building of fires. And they’ll be right about the disasters.- were it not for domestication of fire, there would be none of the tools of mass destruction that exist today, not to mention no smelting of ores that leads to forging metals which leads after centuries to building computers which leads to disinformation spread by Facebook (and Twitter and cable news and email groups and Zoom meetups and YouTube and the general ability to view only information that confirms one’s biases).

  39. Many people above have stated that they do or do not use FB to keep in touch with friends and relatives. I do not use FB much for that, just a few remote friends. However, I have found groups in FB that are a wonderful source of information, often very technical and not available elsewhere without a lot of googling. In particular, they contain info on people’s personal experiences which is invaluable and not available elsewhere on the Internet.

    Just as an example, I have a mild thyroid condition. A group focuses on thyroid and has collected many resources on thyroid function, the pros and cons of various treatment approaches and the personal experiences of people using these approaches. This includes research papers on technical aspects which seem unknown to the general medical community.

    I have learned a lot and and can talk to the doctor from the situation of understanding what is happening. I sometimes even find myself educating the doctor on the underlying processes behind the condition.

    So FB can be regarded as more than a way to keep in touch, but also as a way to learn - recognising ofc that there is a lot of rubbish out there too and that recognition of what is reliable or not is part of the process. Caution is always warranted.

  40. I am also on groups - probably more groups than I have friends on FB. But as one who started on usenet and migrated to email groups, I find FB to be the WORST venue for any type of organized data. The search feature is completely unreliable and last I knew you couldn’t even search documents that admins put up to easily answer peoples questions. So groups are basically a lot of pictures and people asking the same questions over and over because it’s hard to find the info that’s already out there. The way they thread replies makes it difficult to find them and they more recently have defaulted to - even on personal pages - “most relevant comments” which is whatever FB deems relevant to the conversation, not what the reader may deem relevant.

    I’m going to toss out my favorite FB insult: they continue to hire programmers that Microsoft rejected :speak_no_evil:


  41. I agree that FB search is useless. However, if the admins put in the effort to categorise information and link to it as Topics or other means, groups can be very usable. FAQs also help if members are forced to read it before commenting. (This needs to be started at the inception of the group. It is very hard to retrofit to an existing active group.)

    Sadly most ignore all the helpful stuff at the top of the group and jump in with dumb questions.

  42. Early on, when FB had only been around a few years, someone tried to share some pictures to me on FB, but I couldn’t access them without joining. I immediately realized that everything on FB is behind a wall and FB is effectively building their own internet. Since that’s contrary to the whole point of the internet, I refused to join and I’m glad I did.

    Now I see so much stuff that’s FB-only – from easy logins to information – and it strikes me horribly unfair and should be illegal. For instance, when I watch Major League Soccer games the teams will have “contests” where people get a chance to win a prize (by voting for top player or best goal or whatever), but since you have to be an FB member, I can’t do it – therefore I’m discriminated against. There’s no other way to enter but via FB, which is ridiculous. (There are rules for traditional games and contests with prizes, so that it’s fair for all, but apparently those laws don’t apply to online stuff.)

    I really hate it when companies just assume everyone is on FB. A local food truck posts their location/schedule on FB. So dumb! Why not just put it on a website anyone can access? I often miss news from my own relatives (births, deaths, marriages) because they just assume everyone “saw it on facebook.”

    I have no issue with paywalls – companies are free to lock content behind them – but the size and scope of FB is bifurcating the internet and setting an incredibly dangerous precedent. There are some people for whom the entire internet is facebook. They don’t even know there’s more beyond its borders. That’s scary!

  43. It does annoy me also when sites give the option of logging in with FB or Google or even Apple. It is none of their business what I login to, so I always choose to create my own account.

    And I recall an incident about ten years ago. I was talking to a fellow who ran a club. One of the members did not have an e-mail address and wanted to receive all club info by FB Messenger. Just not going to happen as more people have e-mail than are members of FB.

  44. A vendor who uses FB as his primary operating base is a vendor I won’t use–that’s a fully disqualifying factor. His choice to use FB. My choice to go somewhere else.

    I had been on FB just a month or two when I started getting more and more “friend” or “like” requests (or whatever else the algorithms threw at me to more fully ensnare me in the FB net) but when they reached the 2nd and 3rd degree, when I had only the most vague of ideas who the person even was, I took the time and trouble to figure out how to disconnect and to paraphrase the immortal words of the Humongous to Mad Max, I “just walked away.”

  45. Agreed on the companies! I’ve missed out on concert tickets for a favorite artist. I was on their email list but didn’t realize that a couple of years later they’d stopped updating the website except for concert dates. No ticket sales info anymore and no mailing list, only FB. Thankfully they’ve gone back. But I see it with a lot of smaller local businesses. My first instinct is to go to a website for info, not social media.

    I have actually found I will get a quicker response in some cases to a FB message to a company vs a web chat or email.

    I have a few friends and companies favorited so I get their updates as they post it. Except I don’t, so what’s the point. FB controls what we see and who has time to select everything individually? The more groups and company likes you have, the more cluttered your feed is and the harder it is to see relevant-to-you info.

    What I dislike the most is hitting a page that requires a login, but hey they’ll let you use your FB login. No thanks.

    If FB went away tomorrow, I wouldn’t miss it at all.


  46. I don’t love Facebook, but I think it’s silly to avoid a small company just because they don’t have the time or money or expertise (or feel that they do) to create and update a web site, but find it easy to create a Facebook (or Google) presence and keep it updated. I went to a phenomenal restaurant just before COVID-19 that had a years-old web site but kept their Facebook page updated, and I was able to find out about a near-term reservation opportunity through Facebook and book a reservation. We’re hoping to go back later this year after a trip we’re taking next month, and when we’re not living with 80 year old people, as we are this summer; we still avoid indoor restaurants, still haven’t had COVID-19, and definitely don’t want to risk being responsible for giving our older relatives COVID-19. But we literally would never have learned about this great restaurant if it wasn’t for seeing their site in Google Maps one day and then learning more about it on Facebook.

    Facebook can be toxic if you let it be, but I keep up using the chronological feed. In the iOS app, there is a tab on the bottom “Feeds” that shows your friends, groups, pages, etc., in reverse chronological order, so you can scroll until you recognize the last items you’ve already seen, and there are no “recommended” items (though of course there are ads.) It’s a bit different in the iPad app (or I think online in Safari, but I never look at FB that way). Tap the menu bottom-right, tap “Most Recent”, and it shows your content in reverse chronological order.

    I hardly ever post anything, I don’t let FB know my location, if I do share a photo I strip location info from it. But I do enjoy seeing what my friends and family are up to. I rarely comment or like anything.

    There are ways to use FB and avoid the toxicity. And there are good, small businesses that use the service well. You do you, but it seems weird to me to punish them just because you don’t like Facebook.

    As for twitter, I don’t use their app at all, but do use the third party app Twitterific, which has powerful muting/muffling filtering, plus I’m careful about who I follow. It can be super-useful and I find it easier to pick the articles I want to read in sites that post a lot of articles. I guess I used to use RSS for this, but I find twitter more useful for this these days.

    Perhaps I’m just able to not get emotionally involved (e.g. angry) when people post things on social media sites like these that they troll for response. Trolling on the internet has been around far longer than Facebook and twitter, that’s for sure.

  47. I didn’t understand that post to indicate punishment at all.

    The biz makes a biz decision to only communicate with potential customers through FB. That poster made a biz decision not to do biz with FB and hence they won’t learn about said restaurant or shop or whatever. It’s not punishment, it’s just cause and effect.

    No hard feelings I’m sure, but if a biz makes a conscious biz decision, they’ll have to live with the consequences of that decision.

    I’m happy that works out for you. Personally, I’m more concerned about the opposite. I don’t use FB and never have, yet I still cannot avoid their toxicity (Jan 6 coup attempt).

    I don’t see how it’s fair that I (or anybody else) suffer at the hands of a conglomerate we have never chosen to do biz with. Where is our freedom and liberty in all of this?

  48. What Simon said. I won’t refuse to do business with someone who is only on FB but yes I will miss out on updates if that’s the only place they put their info. In my case I missed 2 concerts in a row because I’d signed up for their email lists in good faith and didn’t realize they’d abandoned them for FB.

    When I travel and am looking for a place to eat on the fly, I will pick up my phone and believe it or not, look in Maps for nearby places. Those often have reviews (Yelp? TripAdvisor?) that I can read but most importantly, they will tell me how far away they are from my exact location. If I see a place I like I can either call or get directions immediately on the phone. I don’t need FB knowing where I eat. Same goes for gas and lodging. I rarely make reservations in advance.

    A big issue I’ve seen with FB and business is that the location is not always on the main page. I have found it in the past by hitting “Suggest edits”. It should be up front and center on every single page especially places like food and lodging.

    I deleted FB from my phone 4 years ago for a number of reasons so it will be the last place I look when I have my phone in my hand.

    Having to hit “most recent” in your feed is annoying because you have to do it every single time and it’s another thing that is getting increasingly buried.

    If you’re going to have an online presence I think you need to go all-in these days. It’s not just the web, or fb or twitter or whatever. I only have FB and I am not on it all the time so I miss a lot. There’s too much junk to scroll through. It’s more like something I may do when I am bored and don’t want to think too much. It IS an easy way to post pictures, I’ll give it that much. But even that is not easy these days as they censor too much.

    I enjoy forums way more because they are organized. For instance, I read Mac Rumors often. But I have no interest in certain topics so I can skip right over those sections and only enter the ones where I may find the info I need. FB doesn’t make that part easy at all. There are a number of forums I’ve used that also have a FB presence and I haven’t bothered even looking at them because it’s just chaos.


  49. I agree 100%. My background is In publishing and advertising, and I’m very well versed in tracking and targeting. Facebook, My Space, Twitter, etc. always gave me the willies and I never considered signing away my soul. Here’s another recent example of why:

    Although I have been hearing for years from friends and family who still badger me about Facebook, I stick to my guns and keep telling them to please just send me an email. And remember when the annoying Facebook Like button was just about everywhere off of Facebook? It’s still alive and well, but I am glad many businesses and individuals stopped using it.

  50. There tends to be moral panic about any new technology that significantly changes society and I think this is what we’re seeing here, mostly. It’s notable, for example, that a lot of the planning and communicating and amplification around the January 6 coup attempt was done by email, but no one’s talking about how it has to be regulated and moderated, because it’s already well established.

  51. The issue of a business or group using Facebook as their only technology for providing an online presence troubles me. On the one hand, I recognize that groups want to go where people are, and social media appears to be that place. (Often it’s not, because Facebook’s algorithm determines when something is deemed worth to show. And of course, the audience is then limited to people who will use Facebook, which, as this thread indicates, is far from everyone.)

    On the other hand, everyone has to make choices that they believe support the world they want to live in. Many people and companies have stopped doing business of any sort with Russian companies in the wake of that country’s invasion and subsequent killing of many thousands of Ukrainians. And that could be the case even when individual Russian companies may be unrelated to the invasion or actively against it.

    I won’t categorically refuse to interact with a business whose only or main Internet presence is via Facebook, although it will negatively color my opinion of them and I’ll seek out and prefer alternatives if possible. And I won’t ever communicate using a Facebook-owned channel—if that’s the only option, I’ll do without. But that’s just me.

  52. That’s absolutely true, but that raises the point that email is an open standard that’s not under the control of any one entity, as Facebook is. And Facebook does control what can be said on its platform.

  53. I was pretty sure that I was hitting the general thread reply, but my remark was mostly responding to this quote.

  54. Yep. I said it and meant it. There are plenty of other avenues for very small operators who can’t afford a web site, such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, etsy, etc. etc. etc. I won’t use FB because I feel it is inherently evil, to be honest.

    YMMV. That’s what having choices is all about.

  55. There’s interesting US demographics about the impact of social media usage from the very reputable Pew foundation: About two-thirds of Americans (64%) say social media have a mostly negative effect on the way things are going in the country today:

  56. I was also reminded of another book The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man:

  57. Not far from my home is a very popular ice cream parlor that has been in business and owned by the same family for generations. They make all their ice cream and toppings from scratch, and the stuff really is that good. The displays and furniture hasn’t been updated since the 1930s, and the parlor has been featured in films and TV shows for decades. But it’s still a very, very small local family business, the owners don’t advertise or franchise; they only have a Facebook page. I’m not going to penalize a friendly, family owned business that has the best ice cream ever for not having their own website. The parlor doesn’t even have wifi.

    My husband and I were both there yesterday. Here’s an article about Eddie’s:

  58. A very significant % of the Pew Charitable Trust’s time and $$$$$$$ is devoted to journalism:

    They’ve been very focused on digital journalism since the founding of the Interwebs:

    And IMHO, they are very focused on democracy as well as privacy:

  59. At least with a business you have the option to go somewhere else. But I’ve noticed a trend for public agencies to use Facebook (or sometimes Twitter) as their sole means of communicating time-critical information. For example, my kids’ school now routinely sends urgent information about closures (from floods, Covid, etc.) via Facebook only. And during our recent devastating floods in the area of Australia where I live, our state government emergency rescue service gave updates via Facebook and Twitter only. There’s something very troubling about government agencies requiring individuals to sign up with a toxic private company in order to receive crucial information.

    Whatever happened to RSS - that used to be a great way to receive time-critical updates without being tied to a specific platform?

  60. Agreed—that is even more troubling, especially since then it’s up to the Facebook algorithm to decide whether some piece of urgent information should actually be shared with a user or not.

    Where I live, we have an emergency notification system that lets you choose how you want to get the notifications, email, text, or phone. It works well and lets you choose what sorts of notifications you want as well, though it can still warn more often than one might want.

  61. I agree with all of the above. At least you can look at Twitter without singing in (that might be for just a specific post, I can’t recall). The most disturbing example of this I’ve come across is Facebook’s commenting system. If you want to leave a comment on a post, that whole system is implemented/hosted by Facebook. Duck Duck Go security won’t even display it, since it’s a privacy risk. In this case (and others) there’s no place else to go. No alternative.

    The most alarming example I’ve seen of this on Consumer Reports’ website. Their commenting system is Facebook’s. I contacted CR about it, and actually did get responses from them, but they don’t acknowledge that it’s a security risk. Or that it gives the impression that they’re in bed with Facebook.

    My faith in everything dropped even lower that day.

  62. “ You may think you’re safe from Twitter’s constant snooping if you never use it. Unfortunately, this is not true and Twitter can collect information about you even if you’ve never created an account on the platform. The company has agreements with other websites that embed tweets and use Twitter in other ways. Through these agreements, Twitter can track activity, even of those who don’t use their service.

    When you visit a website that has an agreement with Twitter, the company receives a treasure trove of information about you. For instance, using your IP address, Twitter can gain an accurate idea of where you are located, which may reveal where you live or work.

    Twitter will also know the website you came from before landing on the referring website. When you leave the site, Twitter might know where you went. If you allow cookies in your browser, your web activity may be tracked well beyond the next website. Twitter uses your inferred identity to personalize your experience in terms of the content and ads you see on its platform.”

    And there is the chance that if Elon Musk does end up buying Twitter, their policies will change. Maybe not for the better:

    Twitter to Pay $150 Million Privacy Fine as Elon Musk Deal Looms:

  63. There are many companies that pay people to post good and bad reviews on websites. Good for their own products and services, bad for competitors.

    And Amazon has Vine, its own in-house service. It looks like it’s not quite as terribly creepy, but creepy still

    I always take online reviews with a big grain of salt. I stick with the Wirecutter, Consumer Reports, as well as TidBITS and this forum.

  64. All this is true.The problem is often that the person sending out those updates isn’t very technically proficient, but they do know how to use Facebook, so that’s what they gravitate toward. They also may not have access to the technical resources to do anything else, like start an organizational status blog. Similarly, a lot of the consumers of that information will only consume it via Facebook.

  65. Yes, I also participate on Facebook and LinkedIn for the “network effect,” i.e, because that’s where other people are.

    What’s the alternative?

  66. It’s a good question…I think the major services are so intertwined with so much else (as others here have bemoaned) that there isn’t really an alternative that works as well for that base functionality. I mean there are plenty of alternative platforms but, as you said, the majority of folks aren’t there so theiris effectiveness is limited.

  67. I guess everyone has a different optimal solution to the same problem. The sense I get from the discussion above is that everyone benefits from social media differently; it may make sense for one to use social media, and not for another person.

    My thoughts were influenced by Cal Newport’s work Digital Minimalism. I am one of those people he described who left social media platforms and never returned. For those who still value social media, he suggested techniques such as:

    • having a “terms of reference” for the platforms one uses - specifying clearly what one wants to achieve by using social media - and limit one’s activities accordingly
    • not get involved in addictions to approval e.g. constantly giving and seeking likes; and
    • structure one’s time so that one can have a break and surf on social media, but not to the extent that it disrupts one’s life.

    I find my optimal outcome by forgoing social media and focus on one-on-one communication (messaging, emails), “traditional media” e.g. email newsletters, and direct engagement in healthy online communities e.g. TidBITS whose interests and incentives align with mine.

    I mentioned in a post above that I have not become less employable. I find that the (actual, in-person) human networks work much better than platforms such as LinkedIn. Some jobs are not advertised; some companies can create posts for you if they want you badly or have plans for you; attending conferences, giving goodwill/pro-bono consulting and hosting workshops/clinics work much better in forming networks and cultivating professional relationships. Of course, social media can be included as part of the process, but it is a means to an end, not the end itself; I just happened not to use social media.

    I think it is more rewarding (psychologically and perhaps financially) to pursue such opportunities than ‘connecting’ on social media platforms, which has an ephemeral feel to it.

  68. Yes, this is a major reason that I use Facebook. In addition to these announcements, I also scrape the pages for contact information, birthdates, anniversaries, as well as names of (linked and tagged) extended family members and maiden names.

    I’d think that posting one’s birthday and a link to one’s mother (who posts her maiden name) would be a huge risk for identity theft. I’d think that posting links to relatives and friends would be great information for phishing attacks. But until people wise up, I’m very happy to scrape all this information for my own (legal and ethical) personal purposes.

  69. It really depends on who you choose to share this information with.

    When I was using FB (many years ago), you could choose the amount of sharing, one of:

    • With nobody (for yourself only)
    • With your friends
    • With friends of your friends
    • With everybody

    I think you could also prepare sub-lists of your friends and restrict items to a specific such list. (I know you could do that with messages you posted, but I don’t know about profile information.)

    I made a point of restricting anything significant (e.g. relationships to others, birthdays, etc.) to only “with your friends”. People further away got information not usable for identity theft. For example “is married” instead of “is married to …”, and “xxx years old” instead of “birthday is month/day/year”.

    I don’t know what the current system does, but I’d like to think that this hasn’t changed a whole lot.

    Of course, FB itself has access to everything, whether or not you publish it to others. If you think they will abuse their access (e.g. giving the raw, non-aggregated data to data mining customers or government agencies), then you shouldn’t put the data up at all. I personally don’t trust them anymore, although I did many years ago when the site was still fun to use.

  70. Unfortunately, such restrictions are meaningless for friends who do not (1) have a long, complex, and unique password for their Facebook account and (2) store such a password securely.

    In my experience, I’m not confident that all my Facebook friends practice good password hygiene.

  71. Not participating? Was life really so bereft in the days of personal email and telephone calls? Sure, maybe you knew fewer details about the lives of people you don’t know well enough to actually converse with on a regular basis, but was that so bad?

    I know lots of people whose regular activities (and even major life events) I don’t follow, and if I do have an opportunity to talk to them directly, catching up is a great way to fuel the conversation.

  72. Yes? I mean they’re both good for small-scale one on one interactions, but both fail at scaling up much beyond that. One of the nice senses I get with Facebook is of a community of friends to interact with (and who interact with each other) and keep in touch with on a daily basis, at varying levels. Some of it can be surface and intermittent, some of it can be more intensive. It’s like being in a neighborhood, where you interact with some people very closely and some people more sporadically, and also often as larger group.

    You’re telling attendees at a neighborhood block party to go home and call each other on the phone.

    And yes, there are a fair number of people in my life who I don’t know well enough for regular phone calls & emails, but who I get to “bump into” on Facebook every day. I think my life is richer for that.

    I get that it doesn’t work for you, but it does for me – and apparently a fair number of other people.

  73. Different technologies for different purposes. I read (many years ago) about the four categories of communication that people use:

    • One-to-one (or small well-defined group to small well-defined group), short messages.

      For example, SMS text messages, iMessage, and quite a lot of other kinds of chat apps. I think you can include voice mail in this category as well.

    • One-to-one, large messages

      For example, e-mail and phone calls.

    • Large group, short messages

      This would include Twitter, Mastodon and many other similar systems.

    • Large group, large messages

      This include blogs, and public forums. Facebook belongs in this category as well.

      The most extreme example is probably Usenet, a distributed messaging system featuring thousands of “newsgroups”. Although not as popular as it once was, it still generates overr 170M posts per day and over 100TB per day of traffic.

    Unfortunately, by their nature, “large group” services work best when they are popular enough that most people can be assumed to have an account. Presently, these are only Twitter and Facebook - other services aren’t big enough where users can expect all their acquaintances to also be on the service.

    My proof is actual practice. I run a personal blog where I share stuff that interests me. Occasional long articles, but mostly links to articles I’ve found on-line shared with or without commentary. I think the blog has fewer than 10 subscribers and most articles don’t get more than 20-30 hits (with a few exceptional articles that got thousands of hits via search results). I’ve invited my friends and family to read it, but I think only two actually follow it.

    I subscribe to many friends’ blogs (via their RSS feeds), and I see the same thing. A small group of 5-10 people who comment on posts and little more than that.

    I have no doubt that if I shared the same articles on FB, they would be seen by 100x more people, simply because the site is big, friends there will be shown the messages without any special setup on their part, and they have a robust search/suggestion mechanism that will let strangers see the articles that I choose to share with the entire world. But I don’t get this kind of coverage because I don’t want to be involved with FB.

  74. Sure. All I’m saying is that there is no requirement for, as @Shamino’s next post notes, large group communications. Until the Internet, there were very few channels for such communications—things like alumni newsletters come to mind, along with letters in professional publications in particular fields. So if someone is wondering what the alternative is, one is simply not to play, at least when it comes to companies whose business practices and downstream effects damage society, like Facebook.

    It turns out that I don’t feel as though my life is poorer for ignoring Facebook, so I have no problem reconciling my opinions about the company with my behavior. For those who either have no issues with Facebook’s effects on society or who feel the benefits outweigh the harms—at least for them personally—so be it. I may disagree with your choice and use my position to advocate for mine, but it’s always your choice to make.

    The concept that I’m working on in my head is what I call “community media,” where the difference from standard social media is that the communications are intentionally limited to particular communities. Hence our encouragement of things like Slack for family discussions, Discourse for clubs and groups (like this one), and so on. I’ve also come to believe that for many communities, online communication should ideally be in the service of enabling and encouraging real-world engagement. That’s not possible with TidBITS Talk, obviously, though it was something we used to try to do at Macworld Expos. (And I just randomly met a TidBITS reader at a parkrun in Vancouver on Saturday!)

  75. Not really. There is quite a requirement for this. And you are running two such services.

    TidBITS is a “large group large messages” service, with a few content creators publishing for a large number of readers.

    TidBITS Talk is another such service, but with a large number of people publishing for each other.

    Facebook has two key advantages that make people want to use it:

    • They are not specific to any subject or demographic. So everybody can find something of interest on the service.
    • They are the biggest. Having the most users, means that there is a very high likelihood that you will be able to communicate with people you know in real life as well as people you only know on-line.

    There are other services that fit the first category, and anybody can start a competing service, should they choose to do so.

    As for being the biggest, this makes them formidable but not unstoppable. There are other web sites that used to also be really big, that have fallen by the wayside over the years. Sites like MySpace, LiveJournal and GeoCities were all big, but became unpopular over time and either faded into obscurity or closed up shop altogether.

    I don’t think FB/Meta is going to close up shop, because they have many business ventures beyond the Facebook web site (e.g. IoT, home automation, VR, and the Telecom Infra Project). But the FB web site absolutely depends on popularity in order to remain relevant. The younger generation has already moved on to other social media services and people in our generation have either already left or are getting increasingly disgruntled with them. Fading into obscurity is something I can easily see happening in a few years, especially if something new comes along, and there are always entrepreneurs who will be willing to jump in if an opening presents itself.

    Likewise for Twitter. It became very popular because of the sheer number of businesses, politicians and celebrities who established a presence. But their recent policies of censoring opinions that the company disagrees with is driving many high profile users (especially the politically conservative, but not just them) to alternate platforms, which are growing rapidly. Will one of those platforms end up supplanting Twitter? Probably. Nothing lasts forever. If none of their current competitors take the lead, someone else will, eventually.

  76. Facebook succeeds because of its pervasive use of algorithms that drive its users to use it more and more, in order to effectively monetize its base via advertising, etc. If some algorithms appeal to some users’ baser instincts, so be it–Zuckerberg don’t care.

  77. Right—what I meant was that there’s no requirement that any particular individual participate in large group communication services. I have no problem with them existing in general. :slight_smile:

    As I noted above, my bias is to limit the scope of a communication service to keep it bounded. That’s why we don’t talk about growing succulents or nutrition for masters athletes or cooking with cast iron here on TidBITS Talk, despite the fact that I’m interested in all three.

  78. IIRC, MySpace and GeoCities did not allow members to use their real identities or to form or join groups, including groups of people around the world. Facebook evolved from FaceSmash because it has been has been all about building direct connections and collecting member data to the nth degree. Once FaceSmash morphed into Facebook and opened up membership to the world, members were, and are, able to locate and screen people they want to be Friends with anywhere in the world, and each member can decide who they want to connect and share information with or not. Facebook users can even do parties, play games, listen to concerts, etc. with Friends. It was not just living alone and blabbing in a vacuum in a City or in a MySpace where you might not ever even know any of the members.

    As much as Facebook and Zuckerberg totally creep me out, it was a totally brilliant strategy that quickly enabled them to destroy the competition by collecting data that enabled THE most effective precision targeting for advertisers of all shapes and sizes across the globe. Recent young college dropout Zuckerberg, who had no publishing or advertising experience quickly aced MySpace that Rupert Murdoch and his publishing minions paid $580,000,000 for:

    GeoCities never turned a profit and was sold to Yahoo for less than chicken feed. Yahoo put it out of its misery not long after.

    And don’t forget AOL, who bought Bebo for a fortune to try and save itself from the onslaught of Facebook:

  79. And that’s a perfectly reasonable approach — but it eliminates various kinds of social interactions where the conversation isn’t bounded like that. You might have limits on topics at a Mac users meeting, but something like that would never fly at a barbecue or a party or a meal with some friends.

    There’s also fairly strong evidence that it’s not social media that is the prime driver of polarization, but television, specifically cable tv.

  80. None of that is mutually exclusive. People can stop watching cable news at the same time as they’re deleting their FB accounts. I haven’t watched any of that garbage in well over a decade. Don’t think I’ve missed much.

  81. Sure, but, as the study points out, stopping the watching of cable news will actually have some effect as opposed to getting off social media, participating in which doesn’t seem to cause much political polarization.

  82. Part of my problem is that many people do NOT have or use email. Good luck contacting someone in China by email; they live on WeChat.

    Young people migrated to a combination of text messaging, Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok. (Yes, they left Facebook but they are still congregating at a social media water hole.)

    Older people have disconnected their land line number and I don’t know their mobile number. Yes, I could ask them for their phone number using Facebook Messenger but it’s not easy. No one is really sure whether the user name contacting them is genuine or an imposter trying to phish or establish a social graph. People are understandably hesitant to respond to requests for personal information.

    And, without a common (social media) water hole, it takes a lot of time and effort to make an equivalent number—dozens?—of one-on-one connections every day.

    Recently I wrote an AppleScript application to automate birthday and anniversary greetings in part to lessen my reliance on Facebook. But even this automation takes a lot of time each morning to clean up email addresses that bounce and track down a new way of contacting people.

  83. Facebook is proactively preventing URL stripping, but they were OK with hosting content such as this until the police interceded:

    “A Pennsylvania man was arrested on Thursday after police found multiple 5-gallon buckets of human remains in his basement and an investigation revealed that he was allegedly buying stolen body parts over Facebook, the East Pennsboro Township Police Department announced.”

  84. I have tried to stay out of Facebook. When it first launched, I got a lot of invites which I declined. Gradually, I was lured into it, anyway. My school class anniversary, discussion and info from the flyfishers in my home river. Support from various companies.
    Just today I capitulated and joined the Norwegian Facebook club for owners of Toyota HiLux. I had a technical question which I have tried searching the internet for an answer to for 10 years or more. Is the diesel “Power Heater” turned off by a thermostat or do I have to remember to turn it off and on? It took 5 minutes and I got the answer. It turns off at 60 C.
    The problem is that I live in a country where the majority is naïve. Just this week it was discovered that our minister of justice is using TikTok!

  85. Not to say that your particular question and answer actually exist in any of these sites, but a quick search in Brave turned up quite a few dedicated Toyota HiLux forums where you could have asked that question in the past and almost certainly received an answer. So while someone happened to ask/answer it on the Facebook group, that doesn’t speak to Facebook offering a general service that’s unique.“Power+Heater”+turned+off+by+a+thermostat&source=desktop

  86. I have searched all those forums for years and also last week, before turning to Facebook. I even found answers to my question on several, but based on my knowledge in practical use found the answers to be wrong. This made me think maybe the model here up in the north, have a different solution. I have not found any Norwegian forum.

    The decision to enter Facebook does not come lightly.

    I even got the same wrong answer on the Norwegian Facebook group, but luckily also a good one, with the technology also explained by a second member of the group.

Join the discussion in the TidBITS Discourse forum


Avatar for ace Avatar for Simon Avatar for silbey Avatar for SteveJ1 Avatar for andkim1974 Avatar for utility2 Avatar for terryk Avatar for mark4 Avatar for neil1 Avatar for nello Avatar for chengengaun Avatar for davidmorrison Avatar for ddmiller Avatar for xdev Avatar for dianed143 Avatar for MMTalker Avatar for paal Avatar for ogilvie Avatar for Switz Avatar for Shamino Avatar for melodrama2 Avatar for EricRFMA Avatar for adamrice Avatar for rick10