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Mark Cuban Joins Critics of the Commercialization of Social Networks

High-profile investor and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban today joined those criticizing Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm, which controls which posts, including those by brands, make it into a user’s timeline.

He argued that Facebook is wrong to base rank on engagement, when users go to Facebook to be passive recipients of information.

“IMHO, FB really risks screwing up something that is special in our lives as a time waster by thinking they have to make it more engaging and efficient,” Cuban wrote. (Cuban may be good with numbers, but he could use some help with grammar.)

“Take away EdgeRank so we all have a fair chance to reach those who like us with Sponsored Posts being a way to improve our odds … I also think that FB is making a big mistake by trying to play games with their original mission of connecting the world,” he wrote.

Cuban says he’s now telling companies he owns or works with to diversify their social media marketing.

Developer Dave Winer, who created the RSS protocol, responded, arguing that Cuban was criticizing Facebook for commercializing itself when that is what all corporate platforms do.

Winer took the opportunity to make the case he always makes: Web protocols should be open.

“We need to use the Internet itself as social media. Then you won’t have to worry about Facebook putting their finger on the scale. Let’s create the software you need to license. You can run it on your own servers … Being at the mercy of tech startups like this is not smart,” Winer wrote on his blog.

Because private companies can change their terms of service at any time, relying on their current structure for marketing is dangerous, Winer argued. Twitter is in the process of doing just that, making its API increasingly restrictive, so Cuban’s proposal to move more of his money into Twitter is illogical, according to Winer.

Responding to the same problem, another prominent developer, Dalton Caldwell, established App.net, a transparent, subscription-driven alternative to Twitter.

Cuban remains convinced that competition will fix the problem.

“While there is no question that using any software creates TOS, business pivot and other obvious risks, that isnt [sic] a problem. There are enough current and future competitors to allow for some level of protection,” Cuban commented on Winer’s blog.

But for a major investors like Cuban to claim that common commercial practices like EdgeRank diminish user experience is a significant change in the weather for corporate platforms like Facebook. And with an increasing number of prominent developers proposing viable alternatives, the big social players may feel the heat. After all, the investors and developers could close the loop together.

Photo of Mark Cuban: James Duncan Davidson/O’Reilly Media via Wikimedia

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