Wednesday 12 May 2010

Facebook: the Big New Story that was overlooked?

May has been a busy month for news what with volcanic ash, the election, and the oil leak. But for me, one of the biggest stories has been overlooked by the mainstream media. For me, Facebook’s decision to link any Interests or Favourite things that we mention on our profile pages directly to “Community Pages” is a watershed moment. Not only is privacy being eroded - nothing new there – but this major change was undertaken without any consultation, without any choice to opt out and without any regard for the widespread criticism that has followed. In my opinion it could signal the beginning of the end for the Facebook phenomenon.

What’s so bad about the changes? For me, my profile feels like my personal space. What people see on my profile will shape their image of me, so I want to control what goes on there. In a similar way to clothes, hair styles and body language, our online presence is something that people see and make judgements about. This extends, in my opinion, to the things that we link to on our profile, in our status updates, and in wall posts. By forcing us to link our profiles to these bland and invasive ‘Community Pages,’ Facebook has put me off listing any Interests or Favourites*. Which removes one of the more interesting aspects of the social networking medium.

Why the dramatic talk of the ‘beginning of the end’ for Facebook? Because in order to sustain its dominance in social networking in the long term, Facebook will have to consistently make itself better. Judging by the outcry every time Facebook makes a change, a lot of people find that it is consistently getting worse. Facebook started out by being adopted by small but influential communities then spreading out more widely; there is no reason this success couldn’t be emulated if someone came out with a social networking platform that is a step change better.

* This also means the adverts now displayed to me are less relevant, which means I click on them less and Facebook loses advertising revenue

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