Umair Haque / Bubblegeneration
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Design principles for 21st century companies, markets, and economies. Foreword by Gary Hamel. Coming January 4th. Pre-order at Amazon.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Beacon 2.0, or How Not To Think Strategically About...


First, note that the evil hasn't really gone away, it's just hidden beneath the surface:

"...Finally, if users fail to approve or decline the Facebook alert on the partner site, Facebook will no longer assume the user is agreeing by omission. Instead, it will offer another, more visible opportunity to opt-out to users on Facebook itself. If no action is taken within two days, Facebook will assume the user complies and will publish the action in the news feed."

Are you kidding? In many respects, that's even more damaging to trust than the original incarnation of Beacon.

I've read conflicting things about this, so I'm not sure if it's on the level or not. Either way, it's the resistance to real innovation that's the interesting part of this story.


"...Q. Why not give people a universal opt-out of the Beacon service?

A. "We think the right way to offer this is on a site-by-site basis. We want people to see how the product behaves on different sites."

Lol. How can anyone take Chamath seriously when he says things like this? Is this a joke? What he's really saying is almost exactly the opposite - we want marketers to see how users behave across different sites. How...Orwellian.


Fred makes the point that better info = better targeting = more value creation.

That's eminently true.

But what's happening with Beacon - and this is gonna be my last post about it, I hope, forever - is interesting for a very different reason: that it's doesn't make strategic sense.

First, read this:

"...Facebook executives say the people who are complaining are a marginal minority. With time, Facebook says, users will accept Beacon, which Facebook views as an extension of the type of book and movie recommendations that members routinely volunteer on their profile pages. The Beacon notices are "based on getting into the conversations that are already happening between people," Mr. Zuckerberg said when he introduced Beacon in New York on Nov. 6.

"Whenever we innovate and create great new experiences and new features, if they are not well understood at the outset, one thing we need to do is give people an opportunity to interact with them," said Chamath Palihapitiya, a vice president at Facebook. "After a while, they fall in love with them."

Mr. Palihapitiya was referring to Facebook’s controversial introduction of the News Feed feature last year. More than 700,000 people protested that feature, and Mr. Zuckerberg publicly apologized for aspects of it. However, Facebook did not remove the feature, and eventually users came to like it, Mr. Palihapitiya said. He said Facebook would not add a universal opt-out to Beacon, as many members have requested. started the anti-Beacon petition on Nov. 20, and as of last night more than 50,000 Facebook users had signed it. Other groups fighting Beacon have about 10,000 members in total. Facebook, they say, should not be following them around the Web, especially without their permission.

The complaints may seem paradoxical, given that the so-called Facebook generation is known for its willingness to divulge personal details on the Internet. But even some high school and college-age users of the site, who freely write about their love lives and drunken escapades, are protesting.

"We know we don’t have a right to privacy, but there still should be a certain morality here, a certain level of what is private in our lives," said Tricia Bushnell, a 25-year-old in Los Angeles, who has used Facebook since her college days at Bucknell. "Just because I belong to Facebook, do I now have to be careful about everything else I do on the Internet?"

Bolding's mine.

Let me make the explanation as simple as I can. Facebook is making a move that no operator of a market, network, or community ever should - they're raising the costs of interaction.

What does that imply? First, that people will simply use Facebook less, as it becomes more costly for them. Second, that it will be more attractive than ever for others to compete, because market space opens up for better value propositions where interaction isn't so costly.

So yes - as Fred points out, there are benefits. But there are also costs. And so, if I was Facebook, I would think seriously about whether the costs outweigh the benefits.

Oh wait, they already assume people "love" Facebook so much that Facebook can impose whatever costs it wants on them. Lol. Real love, of course, is an earned and shared bond of trust.

-- umair // 2:12 PM // 3 comments


Wow. Thanks to Facebook for letting me control whether my friends see the information it collected about me, now if only i could stop Facebook from collecting it in the first place!

Brilliant sleight of hand. But totally and completely evil. =)

btw, I sincerely hope you're not done with this, Umair.
// Blogger Scott // 5:18 PM

Preach, baby, PREACH!

// Blogger Marcus // 6:17 PM

Jeez, how sad that Tricia doesn't think she has a right to privacy. That's a whole other level of evil that companies like this create.
// Anonymous Marc // 10:09 PM
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