Time magazine ran an interesting article on Facebook. It turns out that Facebook is an advertising company in disguise. It's members share and they sell. The relationship is almost parasitic. The host rarely, if ever, realizes that it's being fed upon and continues to supply sustenance in quiescent oblivion. I'm sure that Lyon would be impressed.
If anything, the article does supply food for thought...·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·•·How Facebook Is Redefining Privacy
By Dan Fletcher Thursday, May. 20, 2010Helping bring about world peace would be nice, but Facebook is not a philanthropic organization. It's a business, and there's a tremendous business opportunity around Facebook's member data. And Sandberg knows it. She joined the company in 2008 after helping Google build its ad platform into a multibillion-dollar business. Much like Google, Facebook is free to users but makes a lot of money (some analysts estimate the privately held company will generate $1 billion in revenues in 2010) from its robust ad system. According to the Web-research firm comScore, Facebook flashed more than 176 billion banner ads at users in the first three months of this year — more than any other site. (See "Facebook Wants to Read Your Mind.")
The more updates Facebook gets you to share and the more preferences it entreats you to make public, the more data it's able to pool for advertisers. Google spearheaded targeted advertisements, but it knows what you're interested in only on the basis of what you query in its search engine and, if you have a Gmail account, what topics you're e-mailing about. Facebook is amassing a much more well-rounded picture. And having those Like buttons clicked 100 million times a day gives the company 100 million more data points to package and sell.
The result is that advertisers are able to target you on an even more granular level. For example, right now the ads popping up on my Facebook page are for Iron Man 2 games and no-fee apartments in New York City (I'm in a demographic that moves frequently); my mom is getting ads for in-store furniture sales (she's in a demographic that buys sofas).
This advertising platform is even more powerful now that the site can factor in your friends' preferences. If three of your friends click a Like button for, say, Domino's Pizza, you might soon find an ad on your Facebook page that has their names and a suggestion that maybe you should try Domino's too. Peer-pressure advertising! Sandberg and other Facebook execs understand the value of context in selling a product, and few contexts are more powerful than friendship. "Marketers have known this for a really long time. I'm much more likely to do something that's recommended by a friend," Sandberg says.
As powerful as each piece of Facebook's strategy is, the company isn't forcing its users to drink the Kool-Aid. It's just serving up nice cold glasses, and we're gulping it down. The friends, the connections, the likes — those are all produced by us. Facebook is the ultimate enabler. It's enabling us to give it a cornucopia of information about ourselves. It's a brilliant model, and Facebook, through its skill at weaving the site into the fabric of modern life, has made it work better than anyone else................................................................
The Web's Sketchy Big Brother
If Facebook wants to keep up the information revolution, then Zuckerberg needs to start talking more and make his case for an era of openness more transparently. Otherwise, Facebook will continue to be cast in the role of the Web's sketchy Big Brother, sucking up our identities into a massive Borg brain to slice, dice and categorize for advertisers.
But amid all the angst, don't forget that we actually like to share. Yes, Facebook is a moneymaking venture. But after you talk to the company's key people, it's tough to doubt that they truly believe that sharing information is better than keeping secrets, that the world will be a better place if you persuade (or perhaps push) people to be more open. "Even with all the progress that we've made, I think we're much closer to the beginning than the end of the trend," Zuckerberg says.
Want to stop that trend? The onus, as always, is on you to pull your information. Starve the beast dead. None of Facebook's vision, be it for fostering peace and harmony or for generating ad revenue, is possible without our feeding in our thoughts and preferences. "The way that people decide whether they want to use something or not is whether they like the product or not," Zuckerberg says. Facebook is hoping that we're hooked. As for me? Time to see if the ex-girlfriend has added new photos.