The latest fury over the Facebook redesign and new features has quickly grown to ridiculous proportions. To catch up on the latest happenings, here’s the Techcrunch summary on the new features. And the follow-up about the outrage, with some clear explanations of the ridiculousness. Another good summary of the whole ordeal is available here. The Facebook CEO explains it just right when he wrote,
“The privacy rules haven’t been changed. None of your information is visible to anyone who couldn’t see it before the changes. Nothing you do is being broadcast; rather, it is being shared with people who care about what you do–your friends.”
I think most of the backlash is a result of the users just not understanding how or why the feature works the way it does. Friendster did this same exact thing via e-mail updates and “what’s new in your network” boxes on the site. There was little outcry there (probably because noone remembers/uses Friendster anymore), and Friendster even took it a step further and added the reverse-stalker feature a year ago. You can see a list of everyone who viewed your profile and when, whether they are in your immediate network or not. It was released, and turned on by default.
What really strikes me about the Facebook situation is the illusion of privacy that all these angry users are clinging to. You’re posting your semi-private information, to a semi-public site, where anyone in your semi-private network can view those details. Now your semi-private network can see those details and changes THAT YOU’RE PUBLISHING on the very same site, viewed in a slightly different way. Where did the confusion come from? How did users misunderstand the entire concept of the news feed? Did they just miss how easily-controllable all the details are? Are the ideas and technology (social networks, plus quick-reference news feed) just too new for them to wrap their heads around?
While browsing through all the anti-news feed groups that have sprung up in Facebook, I came across this gem of irony. A group was titled: Is it bad that I found the “against the news feed” group from the news feed?