The Only Answer to Facebook Beacon is a Deleted Account

Marc Orchant, the other day, announced he was deleting his Facebook profile. For him, it came down to a matter of usefulness. I am considering also deleting my Facebook profile for completely different reasons – Facebook Beacon.

In case you’ve been under a rock for the past few weeks, Beacon is the program that Facebook marketed as a B2C advertising platform. Companies utilizing Beacon would benefit by automatically getting postings in the profile of a user utilizing the company’s website in some way, whether for purchase or otherwise. It was marketed to businesses as completely “opt-in” but as turned out to be exactly opposite.

The privacy concerns that have been demonstrated by the Beacon program is well documented. One guy bought his girlfriend a an engagement ring on Overstock.com and she found out about it by reading his Facebook profile where Overstock had posted this fact on the guy’s profile without him knowing. Personally, I’ve been dismayed to find my Gamefly activity documented as well as a car rental I purchased through Hotwire for later in the month.

Lots of people have proposed methods of “blocking” Beacon, but the fact is that whenever you are logged in, Beacon companies can (and will) post data to Facebook. Even if you opt to never show these details on your profile, Facebook still collects the data and quite possibly shares that demographic data with interested companies. Dare Obasanjo has detailed how broke Beacon really is

Awhile ago, I wrote an article entitled “The Art of War: Facebook’s Strategy for Ultimate Victory“. In that article, I outlined how I thought Facebook had made all the right decisions and as a result would eclipse MySpace and other social networks as the premiere network around.

I am taking that article back. Facebook has not only violated all sense of trust on this matter, but faced with the problems, they’ve only made matters worse. (Sidenote: If you have a few hours, go through these court docs and tell me at the end if you trust Mark Zuckerberg or find him to be completely slippery. Also read this lengthy “pieced together account” of Facebook’s origins).

The real question here is there any real way to opt out? I don’t think there is.

  1. The Privacy tab in Facebook – good for taking companies that use Beacon and that you’ve already engaged with out of a newsfeed – but what about future companies that I do business with?
  2. Companies still sending data to Facebook regardless of if I’ve turned the privacy level way down. What is Facebook actually doing with this data? Telling me that it will be deleted is not a good enough answer for me. Beacon should be opt-in ONLY at the Facebook AND vendor levels.
  3. The firefox extension for blocking sites. This is a good idea in principle but I shouldn’t have to do anything to maintain my own privacy!

To me, the only option here is deleting your Facebook profile – something I am very close to doing.

Facebook Apaga el Faro

Al parecer, Facebook ha decidido modificar su programa Beacon (Faro) ante las protestas por violación a la privacidad de los usuarios que han surgido desde su implementación.

El programa Beacon permite a los participantes enviar notificaciones a Facebook sobre las activdades de los usuarios en sus websites. Por ejemplo, si compramos unas botas en Overstock.com, nuestros amigos de Facebook verán una notificación al respecto en sus páginas -de igual manera que nuestras actividades dentro de Facebook son reportadas en el mini-feed.

En teoría, los negocios participantes deben informar al usuario de esta opción y activarla sólo si el usuario así lo desea; pero en la práctica han habido varios reportes de notificaciones que aparecieron sin el permiso de los usuarios.

Ante las primeras críticas, Facebook modificó el funcionamiento del programa, permitiendo a cada usuario desactivar la notificación. Sin embargo, poco después anunciaron que ahora los usuarios deben aprobar la notificación en su página de Facebook antes de enviarla a sus amigos.

De este modo el sistema pasó de ser Opt-out (el usuario debe salirse si no quiere participar) a Opt-in (el usuario debe inscribirse si quiere participar).

Ciertamente es un adelanto en la política de privacidad del servicio. Pero al igual que cuando Facebook activó los mini-feeds, es preocupante que este nuevo servicio también haya arrancado con mal pie en temas de privacidad.

Facebook, OpenSocial y la Gran Pesadilla Social

Ante todo, quisiera agradecerle a Aaron la oportunidad de escribir regularmente en Technosailor.

¿A qué se debe el éxito de Facebook? ¿Qué es la Gran Pesadilla Social? ¿Qué efectos tendrá Google OpenSocial en el terreno de los networks sociales?

Facebook debe su éxito, en gran parte, al hecho de ser una buena idea, excelentemente ejecutada. Facebook es algo así como una Mac: tiene todo lo que necesitas, en un sistema cerrado. Mail, fotos, videos, mensajes… hasta aplicaciones que te permitirán desde morder a tus amigos y convertirlos en zombies hasta compartir y comparar tus gustos con tus amigos.

Para el usuario promedio, Facebook ofrece casi todo lo que pueda necesitar, a través de un interfaz sencillo y liviano.

Pero ¿qué pasa si queremos ir un poco más allá? Es en ese momento que nos damos cuenta del más importante impedimento de Facebook: es un jardín cerrado. La vida adentro es muy agradable, pero no está permitido llevarse nada: no puedes compartir tu mapa social (tus amigos y tu relación con ellos).

¿Para qué nos sirve el mapa social?

Digamos que quieres abrir una cuenta en LinkedIn. Bien, verás que toda la información curricular que introdujiste en Facebook (dónde estudiaste, dónde trabajas, etc.) no te la puedes llevar a Linkedin. Tendrás que teclearla toda nuevamente, en un nuevo formato. ¿Tu lista de amigos? Tampoco. Tendrás que revisar tu lista de contactos, ver cuáles forman parte ya de LinkedIn, invitarlos a tu network y esperar a que estos te aprueben nuevamente. Igual te pasará si quieres abrir una cuenta en Flickr, en Twitter o en cualquier otro network social. El problema no es de Facebook: lo mismo te ocurriría en cualquier otro orden. El problem es que todos estos servicios operan independientemente y guardan sus datos (nuestros datos) con recelo.

Esta es, precisamente, la Gran Pesadilla Social: el costo de integrarnos a un nuevo network social aumenta con cada network – mientras más información hayamos creado, mayor el esfuerzo para trasladarla a otros networks. Y mientras más difícil se haga para nosotros adoptar un nuevo network social, más difícil se hará para los nuevos networks triunfar.

Lo lógico sería que si ya he almacenado mis datos en algún lugar, pudiera utilizarlos donde yo quiera.

Pero no todo está perdido: se han hecho algunos adelantos en la materia. Por ejemplo, podemos crear una cuenta de OpenID y utilizarla en los networks que han adoptado este sistema. Sólo tenemos que crear un login/password único y decidir cuanta información queremos compartir con cada servicio. Esto resuelve al menos el problema de los múltiples logins que debemos barajar y la información básica que introducimos y re-introducimos en cada servicio (también nos puede ayudar a proteger nuestra reputación online, como veremos en un próximo artículo).

El Mapa Social

¿Qué hacemos con nuestros contactos? Nuestro mapa social incluye todas las conexiones con nuestros contactos y nuestra relación con ellos en los diversos networks sociales que utilizamos.

Sería lógico que al inscribirnos en LinkedIn pudiéramos ver inmediatamente cuántos de nuestros contactos en Facebook ya tienen cuenta en Linkedin y tener la oportunidad de conectarnos a ellos. De igual manera podríamos invitar a los que todavía no lo usan.

Al entrar en Google Reader a leer a nuestros articulistas favoritos veríamos también una lista de aquellos de nuestros contactos que publican algún feed de noticias, para suscribirnos. Twitter nos diría, rápidamente, quién de nuestros amigos usa el servicio para poder conectarnos de inmediato.

La utilidad de un network social va directamente ligada al número de nuestros contactos que lo utilizan. Avisarnos quiénes ya lo hacen, no puede sino ayudar al éxito del network y a nuestro disfrute del mismo.

La gran mayoría de los network sociales ya nos permiten subir nuestra lista de contactos y revisar cuáles forman parte de ese network. Eso está bien, pero quiero ir un paso más allá. Nuestra libreta de direcciones sólo dice quiénes son nuestros contactos, pero no especifica nuestra relación con ellos. Son estas relaciones las que nos hacen algo más que una entrada en un rolodex. ¿Por qué razón no puedo utilizar mi lista de contactos en Facebook para indicarle a Flickr quiénes pueden ver mis fotos familiares y quiénes no? ¿Por qué no puedo usar mi cuenta de Geni para indicarle a Facebook quiénes son mis familiares?

En el fondo, se trata de ahorrarle esfuerzo a los usuarios y a la vez mejorar la calidad de los datos en los networks sociales, aumentado nuestro disfrute de los mismos.

Google Open Social

Google acaba de anunciar su nuevo API (Interfaz de Programación de Aplicaciones) OpenSocial para interconectar networks sociales y aprovechar mejor el mapa social. Ya se han unido compañías como Ning, MySpace, iLike, Flixster, Orkut, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Hi5, Plaxo, Friendster, Viadeo, Oracle, RockYou y Slide, entre otros.

Ahora falta ver que tan lejos podemos llegar. Si OpenSocial se va a limitar a proveernos de widgets para que nos lancemos comida virtual o convirtamos en hombre lobo, entonces se habrá perdido una gran oportunidad. Pero si al contrario, OpenSocial nos permite a los usuarios aprovechar al máximo nuestro mapa social, minimizando el esfuerzo repetitivo y maximizando el provecho que le sacamos a la red, entonces habremos dado un paso hacia el futuro.

Como parte del lanzamiento de OpenSocial, Google organizó una charla con varios desarrolladores y la llamó Google Campfire One. El video, en inglés, lo pueden ver aquí. Dura una hora y demuestra algunas de las aplicaciones que ya han sido desarrolladas aprovechando la plataforma OpenSocial.

De acuerdo a lo visto en el video, estas aplicaciones se limitan -por ahora- a widgets que integran un producto (por ejemplo, iLike) dentro de un network social (por ejemplo, Hi5 o MySpace) y a extensiones para aprovechar el mapa social interno de un network social (por ejemplo, ver cuales de nuestros contactos en LinkedIn van a asistir a una conferencia). Pero me parece que estas extensiones podrían ser parte de cada network social sin la necesidad de OpenSocial.

Según las instrucciones del API de OpenSocial, pareciera que esto va a ser posible algún día – aunque dependerá del grado de apertura que adopte cada network social. Queda por discutir el tema de la privacidad y cuánto control podemos ejercer sobre nuestra información.

¿Qué opinas? ¿Podremos controlar nuestro mapa social? ¿Podremos derribar las paredes que aíslan a los networks sociales? Comparte tu opinión.

The Pervasive Web

A lot of people have begun speculating about Web 3.0. I don’t want to even go there. Some folks have been calling it the “semantic web” which refers to the more tightly integrated ability to find information in a manageable way. That’s probably not a great definition either. But what the heck, I don’t agree with it either.

The official next generation of the web is what I call the pervasive web. The pervasive web speaks to the redistribution of what we know as the internet – browsers and computers interacting with data and service and even people – into a truly “always available” experience. The concept behind pervasive web is that you the user can access your information wherever you might be and interact with the global community wherever you might be, in whatever method is available. You know – the right content, at the right time, in the right place on the right device.

The closest thing I see to pervasive web today is Twitter which has been my favorite thing to blog about recently. Through Twitter, you and I can interact with each other and our world while sitting in front of our computers or while walking the dog via our cell phones. This is pervasive web. This is pervasive conversation. Facebook comes in quickly behind this by allowing folks to message each other and update their status messages from wherever they are.

I don’t know about you, but I’m extremely frustrated by the limitation of most of the web to 17-30″ of screen space. At some point, the internet will emerge from the finite boundaries of screens and truly cross over into real life. That’s the pervasive web and that’s where we’re going.

Rick Segal, who in full disclosure is one of b5media’s VCs, wrote a post called “The Wheels of the Bus” the other day that caused me to think harder about this concept. He wrote:

Walk among the people; the real people. Watch, ask, listen, ask again, listen again. You can spot trends, solutions, validate ideas, etc, by taking the train and bus to work. For example: In the U.S., the Sunday paper has an insert section that contains a big pile of coupons and flyers from local grocery stores. Millions of households base the shopping plans around those flyers. Who has the hamburger on sale, etc. Nobody has successfully pulled off a comparison site that let’s you put in your shopping list and simply tells you, go here, take these coupons and save this much. Massive audience of rabid people who try to squeeze every penny out of the grocery budget. There are actually some good reasons why and I’ll cover this in another post but the larger point is that in talking to people, I know this is a big deal based on hundreds of hours of research on this one.

Rick is hitting on something thoughout his article and I highly recommend you read it. At the end of the day, listening to what people need in day to day life and delivering on it is the key to business success. I think it goes beyond business success. I think it taps into the future of the web. We’ve seen companies come along like Tripit which organizes travel itineraries and Slingbox which allows for cool interaction between your television and the internet (and for whom my friend Dave Zatz works for) figure out ways to meet peoples needs in real life. Lots of companies are cool ideas, but these guys are actually listening to what people want and figuring out how to deliver it.

I can’t tell you how many people I know who when you talk to them about the internet react with something about not wanting to sit in front of a computer after they are done with work. Hey, somebody help these people out!

Sink or Swim: Six Companies that Might Make It

This past Friday, I had the privilege of being on a “Future of the Web” panel at New Media Nouveaux outside of Washington, D.C. It was a lot of fun and certainly a necessary kind of event if the capital region is going to make any real strides in the area of social media.

One of the questions that was asked revolved around which companies or individuals were important to watch for the future. I shaped my answer in a Sink or Swim kind of mode. Companies who would sink into obscurity or make it in an industry that has as many newcomers, it seems, as we had in the late 90s and few are actually making it to an exit or IPO.

So as a recap and an elaboration, let me outline three companies that will sink and three that will swim.

Yahoo – Sink
A couple of weeks ago, I had several stories about Yahoo! and the woes they were encountering. In that time, their CEO has left, they have closed several of their businesses including Yahoo! Photos and Yahoo! Personals. This is more indication of what is to come as they slim down to an acquirable state. Yahoos failure was not in vision, but in execution. Many missteps along the road took them out of the lead position to upstart Google, and their seemingly blind navigation through the internet world post-1998 just makes me think they aren’t going anywhere but straight to the acquisition bin.

Twitter – Swim
Twitter is only a couple, six months old. They are not a big company and they may not have a business plan. However, their amazing ability to lure new users to the world of micro-content is nothing short of amazing. Twitter’s base principle “What am I doing now?” seems shallow in its focus, however look deeper and you’ll find a whole new world of connectivity between blog posts. Before blogs, we had magazines and newspapers and you had to wait until the next day to find out what someone would write – and then those someones were”qualified” journalists. Then there was blogging which gave the average person the opportunity to write a couple times of day. Twitter takes that conversation into an even more granular state of the “in between” times. Half global instant message, half blog, half forum, half marketing platform – Twitter has the bases covered. Despite upstart competitors like Pownce and Jaiku, none have the weird charm that Twitter does.

Plus, Twitter takes the internet into untethered space allowing folks to use the service via text message. That is very Web 3.0.

MySpace – Sink
No need to rehash this, Myspace is dead.

Facebook – Swim
An open platform, an open motif for all kinds of guerrilla and viral marketing, Facebook will not only become the destination for friends and colleagues – it will become the platform of choice for marketing.

Mahalo – Sink
Something about “human powered search” doesn’t sit right with me. It seems old and antiquated. It seems irrelevant. It seems like too big of a task to have relevancy in. Why should Mahalo work? If it does, it will only because Jason Calacanis is a very smart man. Beyond that, the entire concept is crazy.

ConceptShare – Swim
My good friends up in the great white north, ConceptShare, are definite swimmers. Scott Brooks called me this morning to thank me for mentioning them. Quite unusual to get a call thanking someone for a mention, but that demonstrates how smart these guys are.

ConceptShare takes the idea that collaborative design is tricky over email with comments and feedback sometimes having questionable results in the end product, and mashes the collaborative process into a single web application. With ConceptShare, a designer, photographer or videographer can upload “concepts” to the application, and contributors can comment with drag and drop comment threads linked to portions of the piece. This is particularly interesting in video where 2:35 seconds into the video, there is a color shift that seems unnatural and a contributor thinks that the video producer should edit that one 10 second section. See the power?

ConceptShare has been used by b5media, in full disclosure, for several of our design projects including our version 2 template that is deployed across the network. Very powerful. These guys laughed at me when I predicted they would be acquired by Google – but I think it’s coming.

Yahoo Could Have Owned Social Networking

Get this. Yahoo owns tons of social networking sites. They own MyBlogLog, Flickr and Del.icio.us. They own Upcoming.org. They own Konfabulator, now known as Yahoo! Widgets which is not social networking but adds features for potential social networking applications. They own Jumpcut, the upstart video platform.

Yahoo partners with Zillow to provide estimates on real estate to Yahoo! Real Estate users. Single handedly, Yahoo dominates the fantasy sports market, a demographic that is fiercely loyal and extensive use type users.

To cap it off, Yahoo could have owned Facebook if it wasn’t for management dropping the ball. Given Facebook’s recent emergence, a $1B investment in Facebook would probably return to Yahoo 3-5 times over in the next 2 years in terms of Facebook valuation.

The problem with Yahoo, of course, is not Yahoo. Yahoo has certainly not helped itself. But as Elise Ackerman at the Merc points out, “…that Yahoo shouldn’t try to out-Google Google“.

Google is the king of search. It is the king of remnant advertising in terms of pure marketshare. It is the king of web-based productivity tools (Gmail, Documents & Spreadsheets, Calendar). Yahoo can’t compete on Google’s turf.

However, they can beef up their social networking and become the king of that niche. Web 2.0 is all about the mashup so Yahoo’s challenge is figuring out how to actually integrate all these social networks they own into a compelling product or group of products.

Incidentally, the buzz today is that Fox Interactive may be in talks with Yahoo to trade off MySpace for a 30% stake in Yahoo. There be dragons in those talks. Watch closely!

Facebook or MySpace?

My Art of War entry the other day caused quite a stir. Notably, it caused a stir with the readers of b5media blog BuzzNetworker where Kevin Palmer, the author who has developed a professional public profile using MySpace takes issue with my sentiments regarding Facebook’s success. He has successfully stirred the pot and many more commenters came out in support of MySpace than Facebook.

I’ve issued a challenge
. It’s really simple. Record a video and tell me why you prefer MySpace over Facebook. Keep it under a minute.

If I get a significant amount of input, I’ll publish the results as a video and you can say you were made into a movie star because of this blog (yeah, right!). Just to clarify, I need an actual file emailed to me. Feel free to publish to YouTube but if I don’t get a file, I can’t use it. :)

The Art of War: Facebook’s Strategic Plan for Ultimate Victory

Have you heard of MySpace? I had, once upon a time. Now, it seems to be off the grid. Facebook on the other hand has been making a progressive march to the sea and is taking no prisoners. In February of 2007, Facebook reported 18M users, up from 7.5M 7 months earlier. (Edited) Toronto claims 1 in 10 Torontonians as Facebook users (approximately the size of the Baltimore City population).

Facebook’s success has not been overnight. When it began, it was created as a closed social network for primarily high school and college students. Users would be able to join Facebook if they had a valid email address from a registerd University or other school. There was a smaller percentage of workplace networks where users could join if they had a valid company email address, but by and large these networks were much smaller due to reluctance of companies to join the social media revolution and risk employee productivity losses. Continue reading “The Art of War: Facebook’s Strategic Plan for Ultimate Victory”