Sunday, January 30, 2011

About the Facebook movie The Social Network

   So overall I think this is a pretty good movie, though I don't think it's good enough to win Best Picture in the Academy Awards. I do see several ways the film could have been better... Mostly this has to do with the writer of the movie not really understanding why Facebook became popular and various issues with how technology is covered. Also, the film might have been better if it covered a longer span of time in the history of Facebook and explained a bit more about some of the events that were covered. Also there is one part that could have been left on the cutting room floor.
   First and foremost of all is the writer of the movie doesn't seem to understand why Facebook became popular. It is mentioned in the movie that there was already MySpace and even before that Friendster, which if you've forgotten were social networking sites like Facebook that existed before Facebook was even created. The only clue given in the movie that Facebook could succeed in a world where sites almost just like it existed already was that Facebook was going to be "exclusive". Of course now a days anybody can subscribe to Facebook but originally it was only open to certain colleges starting with being only available to students of Harvard. Now maybe the exclusivity had something to do with it in the beginning, that it was directly advertised to certain college students at first so they might use it instead of MySpace for example, but could that really be the reason why it ended up completely supplanting MySpace, just that less people were allowed to join Facebook? I don't think so. Personally I think the flaw in MySpace was that it actually let people customize their pages too much, and the average person has terrible taste in how a web page should look. I estimate that 60% of MySpace pages were unreadable because they chose a background picture or background color or font style that made it impossible to read what the person had written on the page. Add to that that as soon as you loaded the page some song that you hated blared out of your speakers and it wasn't very much fun looking at people's pages. So I think the movie should have mentioned that the reason Facebook was better than MySpace is actually that it didn't allow you to do certain things that would make your page unbearable rather than the issue of exclusivity or any additional functionality that Facebook offered. The movie even goes out of its way to show some moment of inspiration on the part of Mark Zuckerberg where he discovers that he could put a line on the Facebook profile that said whether you were single or seeing someone or married. As I recall you could tell this about any MySpace member already and also if you knew the person enough to friend them on Facebook you almost certainly would know if they were single or not already. Maybe if you were randomly searching for people on Facebook you might like to know if they were single or not, but is this actually how Facebook is used? I don't think so.
   A sign that the writer of the movie doesn't really understand computers and technology is the scene where the protagonist is seen defending himself against the charge of "hacking" the school's network. It's hard to believe that the security officer at Harvard wouldn't realize that what Mark Zuckerberg had did wasn't hacking at all, it was just saving all the pictures of all the publicly available Facebooks at Harvard (an online version of a pamphlet that has pictures of the people in a dorm with their names)  and putting them all on one webpage. This has nothing to do with bypassing security in any way, in fact one of the dorm's Facebooks wasn't online and apparently he wouldn't be bothered with getting a physical copy and scanning the pictures in with a scanner. So anyway if the school was mad about anything it must have been that they felt the pictures were copyrighted or they disliked what he was doing with them, the whole notion that Mark Zuckerberg was doing some "hacking" is just a transparent attempt by the writer to make it seem more interesting to people who don't understand what he was doing.
   A completely different issue is the period of time covered in the movie. At the end of the movie it says as the credits are about to roll that the people suing Mark Zuckerberg won their cases. I really think it would have made the movie better if they had actually covered how the case concluded, and the people's reaction to winning the case. I have a feeling that even though they won a lot of money in the settlement they still might not have felt completely all right about it. I think after building up through the whole movie about the case it ended kind of suddenly just saying in text that they won and how much they won- not very satisfying at all. Also it ends with him checking the one lawyer's Facebook page, but doesn't even include in text whatever happened between Mark Zuckerberg and her if anything. I think also it would have been important to include, either by extending the time frame of the movie or in text at the end, that Mark Zuckerberg recently decided to give away half of all his billions of dollars to charity and convinced a bunch of other billionaires to do so as well. This would show that it really wasn't about the money, apparently, that he didn't want to give into those people suing him. Tt was just the principle that he didn't feel they deserved it.
   Also it feels to me like a major part of the movie is missing, It is explaining why he treated the twins the way he did and why he didn't want in the exclusive club that at the beginning of the movie he would have given anything to be in anymore. I mean the twins wanted to work with him and it might have led to him getting in the Phoenix club but at some point he decided to randomly not want in the club anymore. I mean did the twins really offend him that much by only inviting him into the bike room? It seems like he would have understood that having been so amazed by the exclusitivity of the club in the opening scene.
   There is also a part of the movie that is covered that isn't really that important to the story. The fact that he had a girlfriend that broke up with him because he was so obsessed with getting in the Phoenix club and he tried to get back together with her but she wouldn't. And then later he forgets all about her. It was kind of funny the way they introduced her like she was going to be a major character, and then went out of their way to show him trying to get back together with her but she wouldn't, only to have that thread of the story completely become irrelevant by the end. It seems with it never resolving itself that they could have just started the movie a little while after they broke up and not even have her as a character. That is, given that she wasn't really that important in the grand scheme of things anyway. Or at least left out the scene were he tries to get back together with her, which is really completely pointless considering that she just said no. It's not like even at the end of the movie he was still pining for her or anything.
   So anyway those are my thoughts on the movie, like I said overall I thought it was pretty good but there are a couple things that could have been handled differently. I don't think it should win Best Picture, I'll be disappointed if it does. I'm not even sure it should have been nominated even though they picked nine movies to nominate this year.
  Another important reason Facebook became popular was because they encouraged you to use your real name for your profile, so it was actually possible to search for people you knew without knowing that, for instance, some girl you used to know went by kitty99 on MySpace. This was also not mentioned in the movie.
  The movie also could have pointed out that the twins certainly shouldn't have won the case as they did, because Facebook wasn't really a revolutionary idea but a slight tweak of the formula of MySpace. They didn't have any patents that he was violating so really what was it that he stole from them? If anything both parties stole an idea from MySpace. and other sites like it.