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Facebook: thoughts on the digital cattle drive

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

imageDan Mitchell writing at SF Weekly provides food for thought as to why Facebook users, so often disgruntled over “changes” Mark Zuckerberg and company come up with, for the most part fall in line like cattle driven to market. Might want to ready the share button. Here’s an excerpt:

All of the changes come from Mark Zuckerberg and Co.'s idea that "sharing" is always good. In reality, it usually isn't good for users. But it is good for Facebook, since sharing increases the amount of stuff on the site and hence the amount of time people spend there. And, mostly, it helps the company isolate its users' interests, making them more easily targeted by advertisers. I don't have a problem with that -- I'd rather be targeted with stuff I'm interested in than with stuff I'm not (though I don't pay much attention to ads anyway -- particularly the cheesy, low-rent ads that dominate Facebook). What does bugs me is the coercive methods Facebook uses to achieve this targeting.

One new example of Facebook's forced sharing is the "social reader." Various publications -- The Washington Post, Yahoo News and lots of others -- let you sign up for the reader app, which is housed within Facebook. When you read an article linked to from the reader, it shows up in the newsfeeds of all your friends, whether you want it to or not. So this might show up in all of John Smith's friends' feeds: "John Smith read 'Researchers Find New Treatment for Midlife Male Breast Development.'"

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It's wise to keep in mind that Facebook's users aren't its customers -- the advertisers are the customers, and the users are the product. Facebook doesn't particularly care whether users like or dislike what the company does or how it treats them; it cares only that they keep using the service so they may be sold to advertisers.


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