Facebook and Beacon and Zuckerberg blogs

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.

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  1. Laurel

    I completely disagree with you.

    What made this different this time was that it involved people’s activities OFF of Facebook. Facebook and their partners invited Facebook into what had previously had been a one-to-one relationship: customer and retailer. This was done without the customer/user’s knowledge or consent. And what really was the benefit to the Facebbook user? That your friends find out that you just bought a bird cage? Do the friends benefit from receiving this info?

    What makes it all the more bizarre is that Facebook pulled a fast one on some of their partners by telling them the service was a opt-in and then come to find out when it was released, was opt-out. It’s not good to piss off big guns that come to the table with big bucks.

    No – this is not echo chamber…it was a foolish way of treating your user base and a horrible way to conduct business.

  2. Yeah I agree, but I’m not upset enough about it. Nor are most people. We shrug and assume it’s the way the world was going anyway.

    And MoveOn DID misrepresent the situation. FB telling your friends what you bought is NOT the same as telling the world. Of course it’s my friends that I don’t want knowing I bought a “surviving herpes” or some such book from Amazon. Heh. Still, annoying when Adam Green kept returning to “the entire world” when in fact it’s just my Friends list.

  3. Laurel

    I’d say most are unaware of it rather than not upset with it. With good reason…

    When the newsfeed was introduced, pretty much everyone found out at once. All you had to do was log onto your FB account. And again, all of that happened on FB.

    This comes strictly on an individual basis. Whenever someone buys something from a partner site. And the burden is on us to stop it. In other words most don’t know about it because it hasn’t been part of their personal experience – yet.

  4. hi Jonathan, in the immortal words of a Gen Y I spoke to: Companies already know this stuff about me, why shouldn’t my friends?

    Just because Gen X and boomers don’t like the idea of their shopping being shown to friends, doesn’t mean that another generation gives a rat’s.

    The benefits of Beacon for the consumer were not explained well – that is my only criticism. After all, ‘what’s in it for me” is the prevailing attitude”, right? ­čÖé

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