Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook is one of those rare individuals that can blog just once a year and the world cares. And there must be something in the water at the moment because both he and Sir Tim Berners Lee have blogged this month, after a years absence.
Beacon is a utility in Facebook that links your accounts to about umm 50 ? companies so that any purchases you make with them shows up on their site and on the minifeed/newsfeed. How does it work? Not sure, something to do with cookies. But basically if I buy a book at Amazon, it will say “Laurel bought Wikinomics at Amazon and so did 3 of her friends”. If you are on the Amazon site, the Facebook block should say something similar. I’m not sure because none of my friends seemed to use it.
It was highlighted as a problem because it was opt out not opt in – if you forgot to turn off purchases when buying your girlfriend a necklace, your wife might read it. And you might end up in trouble. Heh.
The issue is around opt-in/opt-out and it really wasn’t that big a problem. In two weeks, only 67,000 joined the Petition: Facebook, stop invading my privacy! in spite of all the hoopla from the Press. I couldn’t find a bigger group.
I’ve written and spoken about this numerous times before so I won’t bore you with the details again but in September last year, 780,000 joined the Stop The Newsfeed or whatever-it-was-called group over a 48 hour period. That was when there were only 3 and half million members. He didn’t stop the feed and he won’t stop Beacon. This time I don’t think the members really cared, there just weren’t the numbers. People like Scoble and Shel Israel cared and the Echo Chamber influences the press, but the grassroots didn’t, or maybe they didn’t know about it as it just hadn’t played out as that intrusive.
One thing I like about Zuckerberg is that he has the courage to go his own way in spite of massive vocal opposition. That is typical of an online community leader in charge of online lives of many members and untypical of a blogger who is solely responsible for the voice he or she controls, and is often trapped in the PR concerns of the one-to-many channel that is blogging.
About a month ago, we released a new feature called Beacon to try to help people share information with their friends about things they do on the web. We’ve made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we’ve made even more with how we’ve handled them. We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it. While I am disappointed with our mistakes, we appreciate all the feedback we have received from our users. I’d like to discuss what we have learned and how we have improved Beacon.
Read more of Zuckerberg’s blog post.
I personally wouldn’t have changed the opt-in stuff. I would’ve just concentrated on clarifying exactly how useful Beacon is for members. If only 69,000 out of 45,000,000 cared enough to want it turned off, he could’ve brought them around.