Netflix, Twitter, and Google make unasked-for, unanticipated, and unstoppable change in their products, which also happen to be our work and play spaces. Whether or not people like what the change did, they don't like how it happened. Facebook notoriously pushes changes out, most recently the new News Feed and Timeline profile pages. While they think of it as improving their product, in effect, they redesign what has become the default Internet startup screen for millions without asking.
So, of course people howl their protests. They remind us that we're all just children in the eyes of the cloud services provider and as long as we're under their roof, we play by their rules. At a time when trust in all kinds of civic institutions is at an all-time low, we place a lot of faith in our cloud services to do what is goodly and just. We get so upset with Facebook changes because they spark cognitive dissonance: I believe I do not trust Facebook but I act as if I trust Facebook by giving them my data. The changes let you feel how Mark Zuckerberg's crew has hacked your social brain. Zuckerberg believes Facebook is creating "a more open and connected" society. In other words, he's doing it all for your own good.
The more I think about it, the more I think the cloud may portend the rise of a new kind of experience: parental computing. It will mean the end of personal computing, which itself evolved out of the vastly different computing paradigm that preceded it.
We think of the term 'personal computing' as a natural label for what we do with our machines, but for decades computers were seen as anything *but* personal. Back in the 1960s, IBM's massive mainframes were used for crunching military numbers, not writing Christmas letters. Through the 1970s, a small number of people mostly clustered around the Bay Area, decided that they wanted to make the computer mean something for individuals. Contemporaneously, the ability to have your own computer instead of running programs through a 'dumb' terminal became more realistic. By the early 1980s, due to Moore's Law computers had become small and cheap enough for entrepreneurs like Apple's Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak to promote computing for the people. Apple's branding and products were the most visible sign of this powerful rhetorical movement. We began to call our desktops "personal computers" rather than something more narrowly descriptive like once-popular term microcomputer.
The personal computing era rose at a time when bandwidth was very constrained. Software ran locally and most individuals' computers were not hooked up to networks. Your computer *was* personal. And when you got a new one, the first thing most people did was to customize the desktop background. BBS, AOL, and the web began to change all that, but we still thought of our computers as objects distinct from the Internet. You ran software (games, word processors, organizing tools, music players) inside your box without reference to the wider web.