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Facebook Blues: Will YOU Quit?

Trying to figure out what all the Facebook fuss is about? Considering signing off of Facebook for the last time yourself? Here's a video roundup of the Facebook fiasco, courtesy of Greater Boston (and featuring our own Chuck Tanowitz):

Chuck I think makes a very good point: "Facebook is a business and it's sitting on a treasure trove of valuable information ... demographic data that the advertising industry has been asking for for generations." As the Australian Broadcast Corporation's Stilgherrian points out:

Facebook's business model is best served by exposing your personal information as widely as possible. To advertisers, so they can target advertising more accurately and pay more for the privilege. To other users, to encourage them to share more as well. To search engines, to bring more traffic to Facebook. To anyone who wants to pay.

If you want a better understanding of how Facebook makes money, incidentally, Nicholas Carson has a good, short write-up.

PC World's Brenon Slattery summed it up perfectly:

Facebook has had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad month, and it's only getting worse.

Where to start? E-mails leaked, private IM conversations exposed, apps sneaking into profiles, creepy geolocation additions -- the worries mount. It's hard to distinguish what Facebook is actually doing right.

The privacy concerns at the root of Facebook's bad month were nicely laid out by The Wall Street Journal's Jessica Vascellaro today, and its corresponding (and evolving) privacy policy has been beautifully visualized by Matt McKeon.

This has supposedly led to what some are characterizing as a mass exodus from Facebook. While it's true that the 6,000+ committed quitters of May 30th's quitfacebookday.com have been joined by some technology thought leaders like Engadget co-founder Peter Rojas, podcaster Leo Laporte, comedian and The Onion editor Baratunde Thurston and ZDNet columnist Jason Perlow, as ReadWriteWeb's Marshall Kirkpatrick points out, "it's hardly a torrent of quitters in the face of more than 400 million Facebook users."

Until there are real live alternatives, users will simply take steps to regain a little more control over their privacy, and wait to see what Facebook (or the government) does.

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3 comments to Facebook Blues: Will YOU Quit?

  • BL has a great post in Ad Age: It’s not all Mark’s fault: http://adage.com/digitalnext/article?article_id=143909

  • The thing that I keep thinking about when it comes to this sort of thing is: Facebook is so huge, so dominant, so ubiquitous that, like it was said on the broadcast (although the interviewer seemed to mock this statement), if you quit Facebook, you lose your social life.

    Sure there are alternatives, but they are tiny. They do not have anywhere near the market share.

    So what that tells me is: aren’t we talking about what may very well be a monopoly?

    If we are, then the US government, by definition, should be getting involved, regardless of the privacy considerations.

    Is Facebook, effectively, a monopoly?

  • Adam

    The monopoly idea is an interesting subject. Facebook has dominated the social network, having made such a huge buzz for college students. When it released, as I recall, only a select handful of schools were listed. Slowly, as other schools’ populations found out, it was a race to see who could get their profile set up faster, and have more photos or links or things they like to do. This was before the like button, before anyone and their parents could sign up, and when only those on your college network could see your information – if you even allowed that many. Privacy is something that every FB user should examine and close off. My own profile is extremely limited in its reach, and I aim to keep it that way.

    Now, Facebook has expanded, but what’s making me think against the monopoly idea is that the people are voluntarily, and happily, enrolling in the network and without charge. Another network would have an (understated) tough time gaining momentum to challenge. What Facebook is using to earn is ad revenues, and they have certainly not taken over the interweb’s adspace, nor do they need to with 400m users. However, they are absolutely changing their own advertising marketplace with, as Chuck said, extremely detailed demographic, or “psychographic”, information. Google doesn’t have that kind of knowledge, only the websites in your cookie jar. I have a feeling that, if Facebook – or Google – were to examine the correlations between location and interests and was able to sell that large-group demographic information without private information, the advertising landscape outside of the ‘Book would change dramatically.

    If organizations can cultivate the tastes of their own social networks, and maybe even engineer their own little online advertising program, then ads will seem less like ads and more like recommendations from the company that cares enough to know you. And that will add even more value to the social enterprise, as long as you really know your network.