Facebook: A Carnival Midway not a Neighborhood?

December 17, 2009 · · Posted by Greg Lloyd

ImageOliver Marks wrote a very good post: Facebook: The Legal Rumblings Start Dec 17, 2009, on the Facebook's potential legal exposure due to its controversial changes to member privacy capabilities and settings. My comment: Oliver -- Very good followup on Facebook's awkward (to put it mildly) changes to selective privacy capabilities which were a large part of their differentiation vs Friendster and MySpace.

With over 70 million folk apparently hooked on "social" games like Farmville, targeted ads that seem to belong on late night TV, and incredibly lame attempts to nag folk get their friends to use Facebook more (giving "viral" a new and flu like meaning), I see Facebook becoming a downscale carnival midway more than a neighborhood. They certainly have a right to do that.

Originally I thought the equally lame and manipulative privacy changes would just contribute to the downmarket feel of the place.

But as you point out - EU privacy laws may land them in legal entanglements too.

Facebook is becoming a bad example rather than a good example for use of social software in the enterprise - or anywhere for that matter. Look out below!

My point is that Facebook has every legal right to attempt to develop, market and monetize a site with whatever privacy and promotional rules it wants - and let customers vote with their feet. But changing rules of an established site by eliminating privacy related permissions can run into legal trouble as well as losing trust that makes people comfortable continuing to use the site.

Facebook seems to be floundering and flailing into the greedy vision of "a closed Internet with ads" that has been the graveyard of AOL, Friendster and others, see the Onion Video Internet Archaeologists Find Ruins of 'Friendster' Civilization. Even worse - Facebook ads, apps and promotions are increasingly loud, spammy and sometimes offensive. Google does a pretty good job of mixing advertising that's not too obtrusive with their services - and the certainly makes money. Facebook should learn from Google.

I believe that the popularity of social sites on the public Web and the value of internally and externally facing Enterprise 2.0 collaboration comes from a skilled combination of affordances that make spaces more or less inviting and suitable to some intended purpose. Great architects of physical places know that people bring expectations and norms about the kind of behavior that's appropriate and enjoyable to any physical space - and that's a lesson that public Web and Enterprise 2.0 designers need to learn and use.


The Social Facebook Fiasco Oliver Marks, Dec 15, 2009. Analysis. "...the effect of these Facebook fiascos are a confused business audience, some of whom would like to see an ‘enterprise Facebook’ in their corporate environment…if they could get a handle on Facebook’s ever mutating terms of service."

Facebook's Privacy Move Violates Contract with Users Kaliya Hamlin, Dec 15, 2009. Guest RWW post reviews the changing "social contract" offered by Facebook - and points to Second Quarter 2010 planned availability of Facebook's Social Graph API as the motive for the privacy change.

Privacy groups file complaint with FTC over Facebook settings Larry Dignan, Dec 17, 2009. A very concise summary of Facebook's Dec 2009 revision to privacy settings offered to members.

Explaining Twitter - One of Three Places for People I decided to describe Twitter as one of three distinct places on the Web where I socialize every day: the public commons. The others two are my neighborhood (Facebook) and my workplace (the 300+ spaces on Traction Software's TeamPage server). Compares and contrasts patterns of connections and the social architecture at work and in public places.

Ask an Engineer: What do you think of the Facebook Terms of Service Flap? Analyzes the Feb 2009 Facebook terms of service revision flap based on the difficulty in defining privacy policy based on two different and irreconcilable sets of expectation on what should happen to data previously shared by applications if a member subsequently revokes permission to share.

Clarity Amid the Hype What's different about enterprise Twitter? Most of this carries forward to consideration of What's different about enterprise Facebook?

Borders, Spaces, and Places How to model permissions and borders to enable collaboration where there's a natural expectation of privacy crossing many spaces - for example a law firms simultaneous collaboration with each its clients as well as internal groups. Permissions and borders need to be simple, scaleable and secure to work for internal and externally facing E2.0 collaboration.

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