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.

23 Replies to “Facebook’s Awkward Adolescence”

  1. Facebook first copied few features from Friendfeed & now its try to create a replica of twitter with public sharing feature, Is it trying to create a monopoly in this space

  2. Nallai

    Good observations, I noticed the same. They also replicated Microsoft’s developer platform and call it F8

    What’s left to copy? email.

  3. A little off topic, but since you bring it up: “you do know that email is the largest social network, right?”

    Aren’t we going to see a significant transformation of email? While we’re at it, IM, SMS, voice, etc. In other words, a centralized platform for conversation that is filtered via private, public, groups (work, personal, interests, etc.).

    I suppose that’s what Google Wave is headed towards. Anyway, that point got me thinking (rare…).

  4. public sharing feature was first started by myspace, from twitter fbk copied status feeds… and now u get tools to link your twitter & facebook status feeds together 🙂

    did u guys know, tat when orkut first started, they made scrapbook a place where u write more about yourrself (if you read the help section on orkut 5-6yrs back on scrapbook), but users took it to another level and made it like a conversational tool..

    the rest is history.

    THink about this;
    on Facebook Status Feeds & frnds Updates; first the users Hated the fact that everyone knows what i am doing, and guess what, Now they say I LIKE! it too 😀

    question: does facebook decide its strategy??? or is it the users who frame it up 🙂

  5. Jeremiah,

    They have already copied e-mail as Gen Y already uses facebook to communicate through private messages. The next thing for facebook is just giving users their own facebook e-mail address for added mobility.

    Alex “mail” Ikonn

  6. Warrel, this is a good topic. Facebook is innovative, in fact its CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a vision –much like Apple.

    The challenge is, they have implemented their innovative vision before it’s community and customer base was ready.

    As they come out of puberty, they’ll be more mature in setting expectations, educating, and letting users opt-in –at least that’s the trend I see now.

  7. Facebook certainly has an opportunity and frankly a need to lead, even if leading means reverting to ideas used in the past. I’d suggest that Facebook may end up finding a happy medium in what’s open and what’s not. We’ve seen more and more adoption of “older” users to Facebook meaning more core adopters have their family networked in. This creates a need to be able to segment and share items as public and items as private.

    Facebook has always run into issues with implementation and running ahead of the curve but they have to lead ideas that create adoption. The question is is will their move to openness work with what people are really willing to share.

  8. Facebook is blocking the Twitter application which makes me think, are they in competition. Tear down the walls in these gardens!

  9. Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for Facebook continues to evolve, incorporating popular features from other social networks, challenging the way we share content and how we interact with friends and peers. The introduction of Facebook Connect impresses me most and hopefully the ‘Everyone’ feature will allow me to share my site activity and conversations on the open web but restrict my personal discussions to people on my friends list!

  10. It really will be interesting to see how Facebook implements this new stance of openness in the coming years as it continues to grow.

    We’ve already seen how they’ve enabled users to be essentially as open as Twitter with their profiles but I’d like to see if they have some innovative ideas of their own in this space.

    My prediction is that we’ll see Facebook Connect vastly expanded upon and Facebook’s hold on users data will loosen up in interesting ways (e.g.,through their APIs).

  11. Great job Jeremiah on this post and getting quoted on USA Today. I’d like to hear your thoughts on who is going to be the Facebook of the Enterprise. Not in terms of social connections and social identity, but in terms of business to business connections and corporate identity.

    For example, who will step up and be the hub for businesses connecting with customers, partners and suppliers? Who will provide private identity management to ensure I am really dealing with a reputable supplier in China? Who will ensure my projects include the best resource for the job internally?

    What would this system look like?

  12. Totally agree with you. Just found out facebook has opened more data to public

  13. Jeremy, really interesting stuff. Thanks a lot. It is really incredible, but I am now working on a social media project for a top Spanish site, and I believe we are getting the basics wrong. Can you please identify at what speed does a healthy community set up in a big media site? Thanks again.

  14. This is interesting, especially when you have users from countries such as Iran where apparently people who are going there have been stopped at the airport and questioned as to what is their account on Facebook, and then having authorities going through these accounts to track down people involved in the ongoing protests. This is a situation where having public access can actually be very, very dangerous. FB is going to have to eventually deal with the possible fallout.

  15. Hey Jeremiah,

    I look after social media for the Microsoft MVP Award Program. I understand that you recently with my colleagues in the US.

    If there is anything I can help with, please let me know.
    I’m @Jas on Twitter.

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