Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The New Facebook Faces Advertising Problems (Monitoring Behavior) and an Invasion of Adults (How Creepy).

OK...over Thanksgiving I had some long talks with some "classic" Facebook users--students from the same small group of highly selective schools where Facebook began in February 2, 2004. First at Harvard, then at the Ivies, then at the highly selective liberal arts colleges like Williams, Middlebury and the prestige universities like Duke and Stanford. Facebook then extended membership to anyone with a .edu mailbox and then, ultimately to anyone over 13. Yes, that means anyone from middle school kids to their fathers and mothers.

And, according to my college friends...that's just not cool. Nor are websites like the one above from cool dudes like John Edwards.

This broad democracy of membership is what bothers the college kids...they miss the good old days of 2004 when they were an elite band of college students or recent graduates. They don't want old people who are trying to be cool joining. So look out for problems when the membership blurs out through overexpansion.

Next, there's the advertising problem. Facebook recently announced an invasive ad program called Beacon, despite all its previous privacy problems. Beacon will funnel participating students online purchases to their network of friends. Friends will know when Sally buys the new My Chemical Romance CD or Jim buys a bodybuilding book from Amazon. Worst of all...users can't currently opt out of the program, and Facebook doesn't make it easy to opt out of individual updates.

None of the college kids I talked to thought this was cool...they don't particularly want their purchases shared with their entire list of friends...and whether they friend them or not they don't want a bunch of creepy adults frequenting their clubhouse.

The biggest internet and internet advertising issue of all is just now emerging which is PRIVACY. John Battelle, a smart guy, of Wired Magazine fame and the book Search is currently writing a book on the topic, and he's dead on. This will be the next big Supreme Court level issue everyone from Facebook to Google will face. It makes Microsoft the Monopolist look tame by comparison. Much more in the days to come. Gnite.

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