Facebook: Can't See MySpace In The Tar Pit.

Social networks can be amusing.  I have a Facebook account, and as of this blog entry, 7 friends.  Actual friends, that I either know irl, or have known virtually for over a decade... all good folks.  The posts on my wall tend to be either interesting links, or random pictures, or other interesting sort of things.  I can post links to my wall that I find interesting, to share.  It's all quite ordinary, really, and not much worth commenting on.

Except, of course, on August 28, 2010, when I went to log in, and wasn't able to, instead being greeted with this:

Confirm Your Identity
To continue, we need you to provide your phone number. This quick security check helps keep Facebook a community of real people who connect and share using their real identities.

Confirm your identity by adding a mobile number to your account

The only option on this screen was "Add Your Phone". ... no 'Cancel' or any option for another authentication method.

Since I live far beyond the range of any cell tower, and don't own a mobile phone, using one to confirm my identity with poses something of a problem; especially if I'm not of a mind to drive almost an hour and buy one just to use Facebook!  

However, I do have a Google Voice account, which can accept SMS messages (or, at least, so I thought... turns out it's not compatible with Facebook), so I went through the Add Phone, chose Provider Not Listed, entered the number, and... waited.  And waited.  And Google'd, and found a FAQ stating Google Voice couldn't accept Facebook SMS messages.

Long story short, I found myself in a loop; going to Add Phone no longer allowed entering a number, but just allowed choosing a provider.  I'd get a popup where I could select "Never Got Your Confirmation", which would redirect to a login dialog, which upon log in, would go back to the "Confirm Your Identity" message.

Somewhat bemused and more than slightly annoyed, I searched through Facebook's help forum; there weren't any similar cases. I did, however, find a strange web forum, where others were having the same issue as me, starting at the same time. It seems that Facebook decided folks without a mobile phone number really needed to provide one (data mining, anyone?) and flagged accounts without one listed in need of identity confirming. 

(As a tangent, the forum, linked at the end of the email, is the first I've stumbled across where people with the exact same issue are demanded to create one thread per person, resulting in about 50 different threads with people saying they were bumping into this issue, and if anyone replied in any of those threads that they, too, were having this issue, the moderator went into hysterics, telling them to create their own thread... very odd!)

Today, after around 13 bug submissions to various Facebook emails, a support staffer, without mentioning what the problem was, told me to try logging in again, at which time I was able to select "Use a different verification method" (which had appeared a couple days ago, and simply looped back to the Confirm Your Identity screen) and enter my Google Voice number... which then got an automated message with a PIN, that let me confirm that I actually exist.  Well, as much as any of us do, here in Universe v. ???. 

Since my Facebook usage is so scarce, my only real concern was someone sending me a message and feeling as though I was ignoring them when I didn't respond; I wasn't terribly put out about not being able to log in.  

Still, such an obvious bug existing for almost two weeks, affecting multiple users, and with incredibly half-arsed code on the public-facing end of a large website, speaks volumes about Facebook's view of their 'customers' (read: eyeballs on ads).  

It appears Facebook didn't learn from the happily sinking fad that was MySpace: people'll switch the second there's something that sucks just slightly less than your service.  Facebook isn't as God-awful terrible as Myspace, but it's working on it (want to feed my llama? C'mon!).  

The good news, and the non-ten-ton-heavy-thing light at the end of the tunnel, seems to be Diaspora: social networking 'done right', as it were.  Obviously, the attention-whores who use Facebook to try to draw as much attention as they possibly can to their existence ("Hiccup, I'm drinking, and I don't know why I'm sharing that, except I want everyone to ask me why I'm drinking right now, and what I'm drinking, because NOTICE ME, NOTICE ME, NOTICE ME!! Over here!! Look at me!!!) aren't going to be moving any time soon, but the REST of us (is there any irony when someone typing a blog accuses everyone else of being attention whores? :-) ) likely will jump ship as soon as Diaspora's usable.

To clarify, that'd be the people who share links, and their thoughts, and pictures of their dogs and sunsets, and all the sort of stuff that connects us, but not the people who share the approximate growth of their third toe's toenail in the last 5 minutes and 20 seconds.  Interestingly enough, Facebook's unlikely to muck about with the accounts of people in the latter category any time soon: Not, of course, that it matters.  The tar pit's deep, and there's plenty of room there towards the bottom.

Facebook Forum - Forum not affiliated with Facebook with moderators giving to throwing hissy fits unless you create lots and lots of threads. (There was a forum created JUST for this issue "Disabled Accounts (Mobile Verification)"
Diaspora - Social Networking site that might not completely suck: open source, allows control over one's content and privacy.