It started out with Mark Zuckerberg’s letter about upcoming changes (which had quite a few blah blahs about controlling your data’s privacy) focusing on dropping the regional networks and privacy-per-post, but somehow ended up very differently.
Who knows? Maybe the plan was to have this one slip through the community by sparking up the conversation about privacy-per-post, but Facebook also included an opt-out Privacy Settings wizard, which all 350 million users saw, making user’s Status Updates and Newsfeed items public.
Anyone who has a bit of User Experience knowledge knows what a long, boring privacy settings, opt-out form does to users – they just confirm or skip, whatever is easier to click. Most users don’t even bother spending the time tweaking their privacy settings, they probably wouldn’t bother opt-out either, and whoops their posts are now open to all.
Open to all means a lot of things, it means that posts are now open to anybody who finds you through another Facebook friend, but it also means that it’s indexable – any search engine or crawler can now tap into your Life stream.
And the search engines are all over it. According to Tech Crunch Bing will be getting access to Facebook public stream in early 2010. Google will only access Fan Pages at first, but I bet they will go out of their way, including paying cash, to index users’ streams.
I guess the very legitimate discussion about this shift in the user’s privacy would probably go on and on inside Facebook and outside it, with many who will go against it, but it’s hard for me to believe that Facebook would take a step back. This is a huge opportunity for Facebook, and an important step before shooting for an IPO. “Selling” all this data, and creating an eco-system of developer’s around it, can probably turn out as a revenue hit and may bring Facebook to a point where it’s break-even or even profitable.
It’s also an interesting opportunity for publishers and application developers, who can increase engagement by displaying and aggregating Newsfeeds, if Facebook allows them.