eHow goes Facebook exclusive for logins and profiles, and here’s why it’s bad

I just got an e-mail1 from eHow announcing that starting in February 2011, Facebook will become the exclusive login method, replacing member profiles. Any friends not already connected through Facebook must be added to remain in your friends list on eHow. This change, while being billed as a way “to help you streamline friend lists and eliminate the work of managing multiple online accounts,” is a step back for the web, especially in terms of user control and choice (and it’s unequivocally good for Facebook, from a business and expansion perspective). I don’t use eHow, so this change won’t affect me2, nor do I care how a company with an already questionable reputation runs its site. But if this is the beginning of a trend, it’s very worrying.

The problem isn’t with allowing Facebook login, which has its benefits — one less account to worry about, a lower barrier to joining, and a unified online profile (that last one could also be filed under cons). The problem is with two specific aspects: the exclusivity, and the way friends are handled. Anyone who doesn’t want their eHow (or any Facebook-exclusive site) profile connected to their Facebook profile (and real name) is forced not to contribute, or to create an alternate Facebook account. Facebook, at least for me, has always been more personal than most sites. When fake names and aliases seemed to be the norm on the Internet, Facebook was the only place where everyone used their real names. Facebook is a personal profile; a profile only of you, whereas on many sites your name serves only to connect you to a specific activity (like photos on Flickr, or videos on YouTube, or music on Often, users may not want all of their activities linked to their real name and personal profile. Furthermore, those who choose not to partake in the Facebook pandemic must also abstain from any sites that require a Facebook account to log in. If this becomes a trend, could people start having two profiles — one public, perhaps without a real name, for use with some sites (like eHow), and one for actual friends? (or for those who don’t use Facebook, a profile used only for logging in to other sites?)

Even if you don’t mind having all of your accounts linked to Facebook, having the same list of friends across multiple sites is still a problem. As I said, Facebook is more personal, and contacts from a site for a specific purpose (like churning out cheap content) may not be the same people that belong on a personal friend list3. This is only one site, but if more sites merge their friend lists with Facebook’s, Facebook will quickly become overcrowded. If everyone I follow on Twitter, Quora, Flickr, etc. started showing up in my news feed, I’d hardly ever see the kind of personal items I actually care about.

Hopefully, this is just an isolated incident. But it demonstrates Facebook’s ubiquity and dominance of the web, and a decline of choice and individual service independence. Facebook integration should be a feature, not a requirement.

  1. The FAQ about this shows a date of January 18, but I’ve seen no coverage of this change, or any notable results on Google. Nor has it been mentioned by eHow anywhere other than the e-mail announcement I received. This seems odd, especially considering that the change goes into effect in less than a week. 

  2. For those who do use the service, this change affects more than just how you log in: “your subscriptions, private messages, videos, playlists, badges, points and recent activity will be cleared.” There’s less than a week left to preserve it. 

  3. I don’t support adding everyone remotely familiar, and prefer to connect to people I’ve at least met in person. Just because Facebook says you may know someone doesn’t mean you should add them. 

Read more on Opinion, Technology, The Internet.