The day Facebook vanished

How do you get to your favourite pages? This may seem like a deceivingly simple question. In my case, I have my most used pages in my Firefox toolbar, and while I have a very extensive collection of Bookmarks, I tend not to use them that often. Instead, like most people in the world, I use Google, and to a lesser extent, this blog and Twitter.

But what happens when Google behaves in a different manner to that which we expect? For you and me, this tends to be no problem whatsoever. But imagine that you are not too familiar with the Internet, what would happen if everything changed all of a sudden? This week we got a sobering, hilarious and slightly scary glimpse into the way in which many people use the Internet. ReadWriteWeb is an excellent blog which specialises in social media. They posted an innocuous news item on Wednesday that talked about how Facebook wants to become a portal to the Internet. Because of their amazing Search Engine Optimisation skills, the post shot up Google rankings, and became the number one hit in Google whenever anyone typed “Facebook login”.  It seems like there is a legion of people out there who are completely unfamiliar with bookmarks, and simply type “Facebook login” whenever they want to sign in, and are used to clicking on the first link that comes up. When this action took them to RWW and not Facebook, confusion ensued. The first 3 pages of comments are the most hilarious fifteen minutes I have spent online (after that it becomes filled with trolling). The first comment pretty much sets the standard of what is about to come:

Ok If I have to I will comment,I love facebook so right now just want to log in if thats ok with Keep up the good work…

I have learnt to distrust people who end every sentence with an ellipsis, or with “lol”. Or what about this one:

This is such a mess I can’t do a thing on my facebook .The changes you have made are ridiculous,I can’t even login!!!!!I am very upset!!!

In the words of Terry Pratchett, multiple exclamation marks are a sure sign of a diseased mind.

It may be easy to laugh at these users, and given the shrill nature of some of the comments, it is hard not to. However, there are several important lessons to be learned from this otherwise mirth-inducing goldmine of unintended comedy gold. Geeks tend to be rather smug about their technical efficiency, and we often forget that the technology we take for granted is the source of anxiety in a number of people who do not have even remotely the same level of familiarity with technical issues as we do.

But perhaps one of the most interesting issues is that this is a great example of just how cybercrime works. Phishers have only to target this very demographic, the technologically clueless silent majority, and their job is done. Imagine a group of criminals who find a way of getting their fake online banks at the top of the Google rankings, and the amount of damage done could be staggering.

I leave you now, I must go back to the comments thread, I need another dose of laughter….. !!!!!

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