I signed up for Facebook in 2006, while I was still in high school. I “deleted” my account for the first time in 2008. Since then I've seen it evolve from chronological feed to platform for FarmVille, et al. to sprawling ad-spewing machine hoping to infect every device you live on.
Today I care enough about privacy to take a principled stance on it, and after dropping maintenance for the Write.as page I got rid of the last vestige of Facebook on my phone — the Pages app. Otherwise my profile sits there, happily populated with “Likes” I don't actually like and a Timeline featuring a life of adventure, like graduating college 5 decades before I was born, and living in Antarctica for a short period of time. I don't know if obfuscation like this completely works, but I like to think it helps.
Still, I occasionally hear about events and certain pages that are only available on Facebook. But with their cookies blocked on all my computers, I get this wonderful experience:
Like any other service that starves without trackable human attention, Facebook is happy to degrade their product to this point if it means annoying non-users enough to make them sign up. But the web is beautiful because users have control.
So I took back some control. I made a small browser extension that hides all of the annoying sign-up and log-in prompts, so you can safely click that Facebook link without being assaulted upon your arrival. What you get is something like this:
Even if you haven't deleted Facebook, my hope is that this will make it a bit easier to log out, uninstall, and step back from the platform for a bit.
One of my favorite things about Write.as is the way users create accounts. I've always seen account creation as a major barrier to entry for any product, and sought out reducing it from the very beginning in my own.
But unlike many products that eschew a Sign up page for a multi-step process, Write.as actually functions well with varying degrees of information about a user. The pipeline goes a bit like this:
Anonymous user (default). No cohesive account stored on the service.
Reserved username. Account is created with nothing more than a username. Only the device the account was created on can access it.
Authenticated account. Account has a second piece of information that allows a user to log in to that account from anywhere.
Once a user is at step 2, they can do everything a user can do — though only from that device. But to prevent losing access to their data, we prompt them to add authentication information on many backend pages, as well as prevent them from logging out until they add something that'll let them get into their account — whether that's an email address, password, or both.
After three months of users being able to register, we have some interesting stats. Out of all the accounts with authentication information:
74% have set a password
83% have set an email address
This shows how most new users add both an email and password, but overall, users' favorite authentication method seems to be via email, where they simply receive a one-time link to log in to their Write.as account. Many other online services have caught on to this too, like Slack and Medium. But for some switching to an inbox can be inconvenient, and for them there's always the trusty password.