Facebook is one social networking site I enjoy being a part of. Although I recently joined Orkut as well and found a host of old friends, I still prefer the constantly-evolving world of Facebook. After adding Notes – a blog-like feature a month back, Facebook has added – News Feed and Mini Feed.
You see the first feature when you sign on to Facebook i.e. your welcome homepage. This feature lists the latest activity of your friends i.e. joining groups, status messages, wall writings, new photos, etc. The biggest advantage of this feature is that you don’t have to visit your friends to know what they are up to thus reducing lot of pageviews and effectively saving your time surfing your friends profiles. The second feature, Mini feed lists your activity on your friends pages. Imagine if you had a listing of all your comments you made on your favorite blogs.
I completely agree with TechCrunch’s opinion that these changes are extremely useful and in fact enhance the user experience. They also cite Rucha Sanghvi who writes on the Facebook blog, “These features are not only different from anything we’ve had on Facebook before, but they’re quite unlike anything you can find on the web.” Social networking itself was a new concept few years back; probably a step further from mailing lists not to mention a more visually interactive experience.
Strangely, these changes don’t seem to have gone down well with the general Facebook users. Either that or the ones who don’t like it are more vociferous in their protests. They akin these changes to a violation of their privacy and say that, it makes stalking easier. The protestors even have declared a “A Day without Facebook” on September 12th [why not boycotting Facebook for good to be more effective is beyond me]. Just as a day of not driving your car doesn’t bring down gas prices, this is honestly not even a effective scare tactic. The page even exhorts politicians to join in the protests. Dude, do you really want them involved? They are more likely to clamp down on your freedoms than give you more.
In addition, there is a “Students Against Facebook News Feed” group that is adding hundreds of members every minute. Also, this live counter counting the number of members in the group might suggest a bandwagon effect – Hey, my friends think the news feed is bad so I think it might be too; heck, I’ll join the group so I don’t feel left out. But considering that all the updates are subject to the same privacy limitations that you can incorporate in your basic profile, I find these objections misplaced.
Firstly, if you do not want some friends to know what changes you have done to your profile or your activity on Facebook, you probably shouldn’t have them on as friends in the first place. I have seen this tendency in most social networking sites (and Facebook is no different) to accumulate tons of friends; some of whom you have never even talked to but simply have passed by in the hallway. No one really has a million friends.
Secondly, the whole purpose of having a Facebook profile is to share information and post your preferences. If you do not want your friends to know about your changing choices and preferences or even don’t want them to see your photos from the latest spring break trip, you shouldn’t be having that on your profile in the first place.
Finally, if you are writing something with your name on it, it ain’t private anymore. I hope the protesting students realize this. Sites like Facebook exist to share information with your ‘friends’ and these new features simply make it easier to do so. I don’t see anything different with privacy concerns that didn’t exist before.
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO Facebook has responded that they haven’t taken away any privacy options and asks their users to “calm down and breathe.” I bet he will get responses like, don’t tell us what to do! But I will make one suggestion to Zuckerberg that he make joining in this news feed feature optional. So that way those who don’t wish to be updated or update their friends can retract back into their online shell. But as TechCrunch notes, “Users who don’t participate will quickly find that they are falling out of the attention stream, and I suspect will quickly add themselves back in.” Ditto.
Update: Mark Zuckerberg responds on news feed changes:
We made the site so that all of our members are a part of smaller networks like schools, companies or regions, so you can only see the profiles of people who are in your networks and your friends. We did this to make sure you could share information with the people you care about. This is the same reason we have built extensive privacy settings — to give you even more control over who you share your information with.
Somehow we missed this point with Feed and we didn’t build in the proper privacy controls right away. This was a big mistake on our part, and I’m sorry for it. But apologizing isn’t enough. I wanted to make sure we did something about it, and quickly. So we have been coding nonstop for two days to get you better privacy controls. This new privacy page will allow you to choose which types of stories go into your Mini-Feed and your friends’ News Feeds, and it also lists the type of actions Facebook will never let any other person know about. If you have more comments, please send them over.
I guess that is settled then. We get to have the news feeds and in fact, have (easier) control over what we choose to populate the feed with.