Having met new people in my Spanish class, I'm finding myself rehashing my stance on Facebook again. It's amazing how often college students stop dead in their tracks when they hear that someone doesn't have an account on Facebook, or doesn't use the site in the same way they do.
As I've said before: I don't use Facebook because I don't like the idea of a centralized server maintaining my relationships to people. I do, however, have an account so that people can find me in a medium that they're comfortable with.
What I really want is decentralized address book software. It could have a web-based frontend. Other servers could ping mine to let mine know that there are updates to my friends' contact information. It could run an LDAP server so my email software can auto-complete email addresses. I could synchronize my Palm Pilot with it. It could integrate with an OpenID server, or a Jabber server for chat, or an Asterisk server for VoIP calls. I could run a finger server for old skool grins and giggles. It could build an OPML blogroll of my friends' websites so feed readers could automatically subscribe when my friends create new websites or change accounts. I could maybe even start something with my friends. Best of all, the whole thing would require very little input from me, as my friends using the same software (or perhaps a service that runs the software for them) would only have to update their own information, which could then be aggregated to everyone else automatically.
(I am aware that I would have to input, say, my friends' websites initially.
elroy.com/befriend is a lot less information to input than Elroy's
name, address, phone number, etc. I also realize that I could be very wrong
about how long setup and maintenance times might take.)
Regardless, that's not how things work, and it might not ever work that way. I may have 500 friends and one new phone number, but I have to notify all 500 of them, and they have to manually update everything. What an incredible waste of energy. What an uninteresting waste of time.
Am I going to start using Facebook? No. I maintain my own website, and there are feeds available so that people can easily aggregate the content to someplace they're comfortable and familiar with. Facebook does not offer me any significant value.
Update: It appears that something very similar to what I envision has already been developed. Unfortunately, it's still not decentralized, but it's a start. The service is called Plaxo.