Facebook is far from just a social network for friends. Over the past 11 years, the site has grown into a massive ad company that has aggregated users’ personal information to better serve them ads, generate more revenue and connect more parts of life.
Take, for example, Facebook’s plans to introduce direct messaging and purchasing between businesses and consumers via mobile app Messenger. Or the fact that some media sites are publishing videos and articles directly onto the site, giving Facebook more control over its viewership. The power of Facebook's ad targeting has led brands and politicians to carve out a percentage of ad dollars into the site and send content to its 1.44 billion active monthly users.
On Monday, Brooklyn writer Daniel Kolitz released a spoofed version of Facebook that highlights just how ingrained the network has become, mocks some features and provides some hilarity -- and creepy concern -- into how powerful the network can be.
Called “The Data Drive,” the creative project is the first for “Useless Press” -- a new hub of “high-quality Internet things,” the site reads, published by New Yorkers Adrian Chen, Alix Rule and Sam Lavigne. The team plans to release a new project about once per month, according to the site.
“The initial idea was to create a new dystopian social network that wasn’t Facebook, and Zuckerberg had been murdered or died. But that ended up becoming extremely complicated,” Kolitz, 24, told International Business Times.
— Useless Press (@theuselesspress) August 3, 2015
hey everyone, i spent a couple months earlier this year making an alternate-world Facebook. it's live: http://t.co/8pxMcup15V
— Daniel Kolitz (@danielkolitz) August 3, 2015
Instead, Kolitz crafted a world where Zuckerberg vanishes with all of Facebook's user data. A made-up “Texas mattress mogul” named Buck Calhoun purchased the site (for an undisclosed sum) and launched a “data drive” in attempt to get back the personal information the site had siphoned off.
The Data Drive is an interactive collage of content. To create the site, Kolitz used only his laptop, a pen, paper, scissors and a scanner. Useless Press founders helped him translate the content into a site and introduced interactive elements.
For example, click on “Create Ad,” and the site will direct to a new page that asks “Who do you want your ads to reach?” Click on “Teens," and you’ll be asked whether you’d like to reach the demographic with “Fun, splashy banner advertisements” or “Merciless psychological manipulation.”
On the homepage, a mockery of Messenger will repeatedly update with “personal” messages from Chipotle Mexican Grill. The site includes about 25 discreet components, Kolitz said.
THE BEST THING ON THE INTERNET FOR A WHILE. PUT IT IN YOUR MIND NOW: http://t.co/L2kHzWMYA8
— Carly Bae Jepsen (@pitradactyl) August 3, 2015
— Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) August 3, 2015
— Owen Williams (@ow) August 3, 2015
The project was purely an artistic endeavor for Kolitz, who was not paid nor has plans to monetize or further tweak the project. He launched a similar project called “The Printed Internet” as a Tumblr blog in 2013. But Kolitz, who has worked as a freelance writer, said he would be interested in a satirical collage-making job if one presented itself.