Facebook has reached a point now where those that use it can’t remember what life was like without it. Just as the users of Myspace before it, and Friendster before that. In the late 90’s there were hundreds of thousands of people that thought AOL was “the Internet”. My point is that while something appears indispensable today it can easily be not good enough tomorrow.
Facebook has learned many of the lessons taught by previous generations of Social Networking sites but still has a lot to learn. The lesson that I believe Facebook will teach its successor is that privacy wins. A lesson they should have already learned with the Beacon fiasco.
Zuckerberg recently said that sharing personal information has become the new “social norm” and that Facebook has evolved along with it. There are many reasons why this is hard to believe and I won’t go into them as ReadWriteWeb has done a great job of that already. I will, however, say that even if society is trending towards public as the default instead of private then Facebook should not need to remove choice as users will share on their own.
Facebook, with the shifting sands of its privacy settings, is being positioned for a fall. I believe they are just a few public breaches away from a mass exodus and I believe “Platform” is their Achilles heel.
Platform is the underlying mechanism that allows independent developers to create such winning apps as “What kind of messed up Care Bear are you?” and the infamous Mob Wars and Farmville franchises. It also gives them access to your personal information and that of your friends.
From the Platform About Page:
“Examples of the types of information that applications and websites may have access to include the following information, to the extent visible on Facebook: your name, your profile picture, your gender, your birthday, your hometown location (city/state/country), your current location (city/state/country), your political view, your activities, your interests, your musical preferences, television shows in which you are interested, movies in which you are interested, books in which you are interested, your favorite quotes, your relationship status, your dating interests, your relationship interests, your network affiliations, your education history, your work history, your course information, copies of photos in your photo albums, metadata associated with your photo albums (e.g., time of upload, album name, comments on your photos, etc.), the total number of messages sent and/or received by you, the total number of unread messages in your in-box, the total number of “pokes” you have sent and/or received, the total number of wall posts on your Wall, a list of user IDs mapped to your friends, your social timeline, notifications that you have received from other applications, and events associated with your profile.”
With Facebook integrating site activities with outside email, 3rd party developers will have access to email addresses as well. The issue is only partially that Facebook allows them access to this information (actually the users do when they click on the EULA.) The other bigger concern in my mind is that these 3rd parties are not held to any standard of security or privacy. Much like the recent situation with the iPhone app developers, when the developer gets hacked and spews personal information all over the Internet, legal grounds or not, Facebook will be held responsible.
So… If I knew a solid team of developers I’d suggest they start building the next Facebook because, on the Internet, giants fall all the time.