One of the saddest—or funniest, depending on your level of cynicism and misanthropism—comment threads on the Web in a long time erupted on ReadWriteWeb recently.
The issue? Logging in to Facebook.
What happened was that the afore-linked story on ReadWriteWeb received a higher Google score than the “real” Facebook login page when a user googled for Facebook login. Which meant that some people ended up on the story instead of the Facebook login page when they googled for Facebook login.1 These people were confused and above all ANGRY. All of a sudden the Facebook login page was different and weird.
Prompting ReadWriteWeb to post an explanation at the beginning of their story:
Dear visitors from Google. This site is not Facebook. This is a website called ReadWriteWeb that reports on news about Facebook and other Internet services. You can however click here and become a Fan of ReadWriteWeb on Facebook, to receive our updates and learn more about the Internet. To access Facebook right now, click here. For future reference, type “facebook.com” into your browser address bar or enter “facebook” into Google and click on the first result. We recommend that you then save Facebook as a bookmark in your browser.
Here’s a sampling of the comments:
I LOVE FACE BOOK CONNECTED W/PEOPLE I WENT TO HIGH SCHOOL W/ESPECIALY ONE CLOSE FRIEND.KNOW LET ME LOG IN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Seams like all of the comets i read agree with me you people messed up royal i was enjoying facebook now i am thinking of getting rid of it all
Just let me in please
These are real people experiencing real anguish. Oh, sure, they’re ignorant people, but that doesn’t make their anguish any less real.
And above all, it illustrates the fact that a lot of people have no idea how the Internet works. None. None at all2.
Apart from condescending “I’m better than them” kinds of feelings, no matter how much they may keep you warm at night, this illustrates one of the huge holes in The World is Flat kinds of arguments about how what we need to do to stay ahead of China and India is to move up the value-added ladder and increase our creativity, etc.: There are plenty of people in the West today who can not go up the ladder. It’s not their fault. They’re fine people. They’re hard-working. But they can’t go from a factory floor to adding value to a creative process. Not because they don’t want to, but because they simply can not. It’s not a matter of lazy. Can. Not.
And don’t fall into the trap of thinking these people are stupid. They have real problems using computers and the Internet, but that is not the same as stupid. For some reason some people who are otherwise perfectly capable simply cannot get computers and by extension the Internet. Can. Not.
So, the question that needs be to answered is: What happens to these people when we increase our competence and our value-add, etc.?
I’ve yet to see a convincing answer to that question.
1 You’d be surprised how many people habitually visit Web sites by typing the URL into a Google Search.
2 This is why the tech industry consistently fails at predicting which products and services will be commercially successful: the industry undervalues the importance of making things easy for users. Tech enthusiasts and normals are very, very different.
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