So, Facebook introduced a new “Open Graph” feature this week, allowing its users to “Like” any page they find on the web, similar to what exists already with Digg and StumbleUpon. Some people, such as Mashable’s Pete Cashmore, think this means Facebook has won the web. Others, such as Dave Winer, think it’s just short of evil incarnate. Why such impassioned and immediate reactions? Consider:
- By far the most contentious part of Facebook’s new program is outlined in Wired’s look at the offering:
“Logged-in Facebook users will also be transmitting information about their travels around the net to Facebook servers whenever they visit a page deploying the Like button, regardless of whether they actually click that button or not” [Emphasis mine]
While the marketer in me says, “Cool!”, the consumer (and businessman and father and citizen) in me wonders if I ought to be so happy about this. Yes, behavioral targeting is a Good Thing. Behavioral targeting with a name, photo and email address attached, however, verges on Big Brother. Apart from the likelihood that the potential for abuse could cause governments to ban these types of information gathering – thus limiting the business and consumer benefit inherent to anonymous behavioral targeting – the overwhelming “ick” factor of any one company possessing this much personally identifiable information and associated clickstream data worries me. Actually, scares the hell out of me might be closer to the truth.
- TechCrunch rounds up opinion on this topic, too, and – no matter how much Facebook’s actions may concern us – concludes:
“A lot of this boils down to a nerd fight that Zuckerberg is likely to win. After all he has nearly 500 million users on his side, who everyone else wants access to.”
That argument may help explain why I, um… well… like ReadWriteWeb’s description of how you can “Like” anything on the web, safely. The New York Times Gadgetwise blog (Facebook is a “gadget”?) also has a good look at how to opt-out of Facebook’s (so-called) “open graph.” Less useful from a short-term perspective, but likely more beneficial in the long run. Put simply, I don’t think we want government getting involved in this.
Despite my reservations, I still recommend you look at Duct Tape Marketing’s tutorial on how you can add a “Like” button to your website and once you decide for yourself whether you think it’s a good idea, add one to your site. Or don’t. Don’t be surprised if you find one here soon. Or not. I’m just not sure I “Like” where this is leading us yet.
Are you getting enough value out of your small business website? Want to make sure your business makes the most of the local, mobile, social web? thinks helps you understand how to grow your business via the web, every day. Get more than just news. Get understanding. Add thinks to your feed reader today.
And while you’re at it, don’t forget to follow Tim on Twitter.