This post isn't exactly about math, but it is technical in nature, so I figured I'd get it out there. As part of my regular data-backup process, I routinely download my information archives from whatever online presences I can, such as Facebook (which I've been on since early 2010), Google Blogger (this blog you're reading right now), etc. Obviously on Facebook the thing that I'm most interested in is what I actually write, which are usually called "wall posts" (as opposed to photos or media, which I retain locally anyway). Once in a while I've found it very useful to pull up the downloaded posts file and search it for some particular bit of info, contact, or date. What I seem to have discovered is that sometime in the last few months, Facebook silently and completely removed our ability to download that "wall posts" information.
This first dawned on me the other day when I used the Facebook "Download Info" process (Gear icon > Account Settings > Download a copy of your Facebook data), and tried to search for a particular post. Well, the normal file was just entirely missing. You can see the difference below in the downloaded archive from March 2013 versus the download from June 2013. The file "wall.html" -- which actually contains all of my posts and is by far the largest data file in the old archive -- is missing from the new archive.
Now, initially I thought this was some kind of temporary glitch. (In the three years that I've been on Facebook, occasionally the "wall.html" file has mistakenly contained just a few days worth of posts. Or for several months in 2012-2013 the download seemed to just fail completely any time I tried to use it.) But if I now go to the top-level "index.html" of the download, then I find that the reference-link to the wall posts has also been removed there ("Wall" used to be the second link but is now missing; before-and-after shots below):
So at this point I poked around a bit on Facebook's information pages, and landed on the page where they supposedly tell you what information is included in this and other resources ("Accessing Your Facebook Info", which I find at this link). This page currently describes three repositories of information: (1) "Downloaded Info", the archive which I've described above, (2) "Expanded Archive", another download which includes more transaction and login information, and (3) "Activity Log", which is an online-only manipulation of the Facebook timeline (not part of any download). What I see here is that "Your Posts" is now categorized under "Activity Log" (and note that this entry is also out of alphabetical order, possibly evidence of some change, and making it a bit harder to find in the list):
So what this means is that Your Posts, the things you've actually written on Facebook, are no longer included in the "Downloaded Info" which allegedly includes all of your info (and did from at least 2010-2013). The posts are not in the "Expanded Archive", either (I checked to be sure... it has dozens of files including Ad Clicks, Apps, Facial Recognition Data, Poke Data, Relationship Info, etc. ... but no wall posts). The "Activity Log" in which they are now categorized is online-only at Facebook, can't be downloaded, doesn't show all your posts at once, and can't be searched unless you know the date of the post that you're looking for in advance. (I considered trying the Wayback Machine to find a date when this was altered on the help page, but of course Facebook bricks off any internet crawlers by way of its robots.txt file.)
In short: Facebook seems to have silently locked up everyone's personal posts in their system, with no way to get them out or search them, without any comment or notification of the switch that I can find anywhere online. The "Download Info" process screen itself remains unchanged, so potentially people could keep using it, not knowing that the largest and most fundamental type of data, their posts, has been stripped out of the archive.
Perhaps equally disturbing is how this hunt highlighted for me the fact that Facebook makes it totally impossible to search your own data (in any way other than tedious manual scrolling). I had flatly assumed that any digital entity would have this capability, if perhaps in a difficult-to-find location or UI. But Facebook apparently doesn't let you digitally search your own information in any way, and now they've removed the capacity to archive your information outside their system, too. Perhaps if attention is brought to this matter they might reverse course (as in some past cases) and restore the ability to truly "Download Info" from the largest and most fundamental aspect of your personal account.
Or can you now find any other way to download all the wall posts that you've written on Facebook?
Edit 6/13/13: About a week now after I first posted this, and a fresh download does include the "wall" posts file. If this was a bug (see comments from Facebook associates, below), then we much appreciate this being resolved and hope the function sticks around in the future, too. Thanks!