Facebook’s Privacy Solution is So Simple

Instead of screwing with the granularity of your main page or account, confusing and aggravating the users, all that Facebook has to do is have two separate pages for each user: one completely private (except for those one chooses to be friends with), and the other completely open and connected to the open web. They already have this feature in “Pages.” All they have to do is tell people that this is your private page, and this other is your public page. To encourage users to create a public page, make the public page the only place that is searchable in Google or the open web. If only 10% of users choose to have a public page, you’ve got an automatic Twitter in one day. But to encourage even further adoption, innovate and iterate the public pages like crazy, and also tell the users, they must have a public page in order to search the public database. If the only way people can search and more importantly gain value from the Facebook public database, and the network effect that goes with it, is to have a public facing page, I can guarantee you 90% of users will adopt it.

What does this approach do?

  • It restores user trust. If you’re main account is completely locked down, not even searchable, you will also gain more users. My sister doesn’t belong to Facebook. She doesn’t trust it. Maybe it’s too late, but if trust were restored, she and millions of others, who don’t even consider Facebook and option, may join. But even if they don’t, you’ve restored trust in your main user base.
  • When users have a clear choice, they are going to contribute more value to the eco system. I recently heard Deepak Chopra quote, “A person convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.” This manipulation of users to “trick” them into sharing things in public, only makes them more reticent, if not in fact close their account, to share anything useful.
  • You’ve simplified things. Not all those “sliders” to give everyone a headache over their account settings. The main account is completely private except for friends. The public page is completely open. No frustration or headaches. The simplicity will make the value of the network effect and the eco-system, and possibly even the number of users, explode.

When Facebook aquired FriendFeed last year, I thought this was the approach they were going to take. Dead simple. Everyone would have their private account and then a separate public page that would essentially be FriendFeed, with all its value of search algorithms that I had thought simply nailed Social search, and would not only prove fruitful to a business model, but also provide even more value to the user. The perfect recipe for “win, win”, the exact recipe for applying Google’s search model to Social Search.

Instead, they seemed, and even more so now after F8, to move in the opposite direction. Screwing with everyone’s main account, violating that sacred trust that enabled them to get such a large user base in the first place, and what is more, doing nothing with “Pages.” And now it seems after F8, “Pages” are almost being discouraged in favor of the “Likes” implementation. I guess they figure that anyone with a public page already has a website, and instead, why not just encourage them to virtually turn that open page into a Facebook page with the “Likes” implementation? Sounds good. But what are the implications? What happens when I the individual user clicks the “Likes” button? Is all my information being shared with third parties? What happens when that gets out, and every headline across the country screams, “Don’t click the ‘Like’ button!” Turns what might have been a useful thing for not only the user, but also the Facebook brand, into a liability, not to mention simply just bad Karma.

I don’t know Marc Zuckerburg, or know what his values are. If they are indeed, “evil,” a term the industry labels a company that tries to make their money through manipulation, then I guess this post is like talking to a tree. For even if they do “Correct Course,” as Dana Boyd, Tim O’Reilly, John Battelle, and many other smart prognosticators predict they will do, does it matter? This is indeed one of the salutary effects of a free market: Consumer push back and the realization that the big money is in making the “right” choices, forces a company to change or be in danger of losing its business. In a true free market, what’s right for the company is aligned with what is right for the consumer. But still, if Facebook is the “it” company of the next decade, and only the market is forcing them to make the right choices, the internet won’t hold in its hands a very transcendent leader. “He who is forced against his will, is of the same opinion still.”

The internet and the communications revolution is truly a place of infinite possibilities, almost a metaphor itself for the “Quantum Effect,” which states that, even in a complete vacuum, even in complete nothingness, (which is not to be imagined as a patch of empty space, because in nothingness, even space doesn’t exist), the idea of symmetry must exist, and the slightest break in it, which must occur, leads to an explosion of infinite proportions.

I would argue that Facebook would be of greater value and in turn be capable of making even more money than they ever imagined, by doing it the old fashioned way: providing value, innovating, and being completely transparant. Good will translates into cash in all sectors of a truly free market, but even exponentially so in the freest of free markets, one where “choice” and “free will” is the highest value: the internet. The Communications Revolution.

What do you think?

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