Facebook, Scrabble, and the Limits of Free

March 3, 2010
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Like many people (over 400 million), I’m on Facebook on a regular basis. Like a smaller number of people, I enjoy playing Scrabble on the site. I also enjoyed (not the past tense here) receiving notifications that it was my turn to play a game. Strike that: games. Plural. I suspect that most people liked having Facebook “push” notifications to them, as opposed to their having to manually pull them every so often. For some reason, however, recently Facebook decided to remove this feature.

This upset many Scrabble players on the site. If you think that we’re not a loyal/borderline psychotic group, then check out Word Wars, an amazing documentary about (you guessed it) Scrabble. Let’s just say that many of us have, er, moderation issues.

This got me thinking: Do I have a right to complain? I pay absolutely nothing to Facebook and spend a great deal of time on the site. I get so much out of it but give so little. I’m sure that I have some rights related to privacy and security, but what about a feature on a game for which I am not being charged? Do I have any “rights”?

By way of contrast, I pay Comcast well over $100/month…

Like many people (over 400 million), I’m on Facebook on a regular basis. Like a smaller number of people, I enjoy playing Scrabble on the site. I also enjoyed (note the past tense here) receiving notifications that it was my turn to play a game. Strike that: games. Plural. I suspect that most people liked having Facebook “push” notifications to them, as opposed to their having to manually pull them every so often. For some reason, however, recently Facebook decided to remove this feature.

This upset many Scrabble players on the site. If you think that we’re not a loyal/borderline psychotic group, then check out Word Wars, an amazing documentary about (you guessed it) Scrabble. Let’s just say that many of us have, er, moderation issues.

This got me thinking: Do I have a right to complain? I pay absolutely nothing to Facebook and spend a great deal of time on the site. I get so much out of it but give so little. I’m sure that I have some rights related to privacy and security, but what about a feature on a game for which I am not being charged? Do I have any “rights”?

By way of contrast, I pay Comcast well over $100/month for cable and Internet services. When I have problems with the latter (which has been way too often lately, as evinced by my frequent tweets to @comcastcares), I expect a quick response. But what about free services? What if Facebook charged me a nominal monthly sum? Would that change things? Have we all become so accustomed to “Free” that our expectations are out of whack?

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