Facebook’s Awkward Adolescence

Facebook is undergoing pubescenct changes in the next few years –from a private pre-teen to a public facing member of society —that’s what I told USA Today. Facebook initially made it’s promise to be a private community, but realizes it must now be more public to compete with the open web. Expect more awkwardness for the social network and it’s users’ over the coming years.

What are the indicators that Facebook wants to grow up and be public?

  1. Previous settings allow members to allow their profile page to be public and therefore findable by search engines.
  2. Facebook launched Beacon in late 2007 that was it’s first gangly moment that resulted in public backlash as customer data was shared without users’ consent.
  3. Facebook already has thousands of sites with Facebook Connect, which allows users to login with their Facebook ID to a site (making registration pages less relevant), and exposing limited amounts of profile information –expect this to expand as it’s successful.
  4. A few weeks ago, Facebook allowed a mad rush to create vanity URLs for profile names and fan pages. Yesterday, Facebook announced it’s going to turn on new features that allow many types of content to be public from individual posts, as well as a set of permissions by your different groups of contacts.
  5. As Facebook crosses this chasm they are buffering with the right staff, and have hired lobbyist Chris Kelly, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, who not only deals with internal programs and policy, but also government groups.

Why Facebook’s Strategy Must be Public

  1. Data that is public has more opportunity to be seen by the public, thereby increasing opportunities for advertising and marketing revenues.
  2. Secondly, this is a trend of the open web as Twitter and other public social networks take hold.
  3. Thirdly, take a look at Generation Y, my observation is that they appear more open about what they want to share, at least for now.
  4. Lastly, Facebook’s play is to be an identiy hub, therefore its Facebook Connect features will let our Facebook logins spread the web, as a result, Facebook will aggregate the data back to it’s homepage, making it the centralized place we go to get information.

Expect More Social Awkwardness Over Next Few Years
As Facebook continues it’s global domination as the world’s largest non email social network (you do know that email is the largest social network, right?) expect to see more focus on privacy as they slowly change their value statement of being a private safe place with your real friends to be more of a public online discussion with the open web.

The key Facebook challenge is they have to convince, enable, and encourage its users to be public and open –they can’t turn on these features without breaking user trust.