Monday, April 26, 2010

Facebook : Coming soon to a website near you


I had lunch a while back with two friends of mine. I'll call them Tom and Larry.

Tom says he refuses to sign up for Facebook. Just too much information to put out there on the Web. Besides, it's just people talking about what they had for dinner anyway.

Larry, a creature of habit, can barely bring himself to try a new restaurant for lunch, much less venture into Web 2.0. Social networking's a waste of time, he declares. Twitter's for twits, in his not-so-humble (and oft-restated) opinion.

These guys came to mind as I read about the big changes Facebook unveiled last week. The good folk at Facebook, it seems, are interested in a whole lot more than just recording people's musings about last night's super-tasty lasagna. Facebook wants to rule the Web.

The social media giant last week rolled out a bunch of major changes, including one that would let the networking functions of Facebook (and the personal data it collects on your likes and dislikes) travel with you as you cruise the Web. When you go to the online music site Pandora, it would know any music groups you'd already told Facebook you liked. You could also connect with your Facebook friends on those sites.

More sharing with friends sounds great. But people are understandably nervous about the chance that non-friends and nosy corporations might see a lot of our personal information, too. Senator Charles Schumer of New York says he's written a letter to federal regulators pressing them to create privacy guidelines for Facebook and other social networking sites. He's ticked -- and rightfully so -- by the fact that Facebook is requiring people to opt out of the new changes, rather than letting them opt in.

(Here's a handy primer from the Mashable blog on how to opt out).

As these moves make clear, Facebook, as a social force, as a business entity, is no joke. No business that gathers 400 million people in one space will be content simply curating cocktail party blather.

So, Larry, Tom, you'd better pay attention, if even you don't join. If you won't come to Facebook, Facebook -- in some way, shape or form -- is intent on coming to you.

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