Facebook and the ‘chair’ metaphor

This slick but idiotic ad for Facebook touted the metaphor that the social-networking service is like a chair.

“Chairs”, it burbles.

Chairs are made so that people can sit down and take a break. Anyone can sit on a chair. And if the chair is large enough, they can sit down together and tell jokes and make up stories or just listen. Chairs are for people. And that is why chairs are like Facebook. Doorbells. Airplanes. Bridges. These are things people use to get together so they can open up and connect about ideas and music and other things people share.

This cant was nicely shafted by Mike Monteiro of Mule Design thus:

A well-designed chair not only feels good to sit in, it also entices your ass towards it. So this is nothing new to Facebook. Where it gets interesting to me is when you start asking to what end you are designing. The big why. In the chair example, the relationship is clear. If I can design a chair that entices your ass, then you will buy it. I’ve traded money for ass happiness (and back happiness, but that’s less sexy). But it’s clear who the vendor and who the customer is in that case.

Where I have issues with Facebook is that they’re dishonest about who the customer is. They’ve built an enticing chair, and they let me sit in it for free, but they’re selling my farts to the highest bidder.

Right on!

HT to Alexis Madrigal for the link.