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This is the Facebook Step We Expected: Default Public

By - December 09, 2009

This is a big deal. Facebook is taking the final step to become more like Twitter. Thanks to RWW for pointing it out. I’ve been traveling and had not had a chance to read the new privacy settings, which state:

…we’ll be recommending that you make available to everyone a limited set of information that helps people find and connect with you, information like “About Me” and where you work or go to school…. This information is name, profile picture, gender, current city, networks, friend list, and Pages….

The blog post explaining the changes amounts to a massive act of “burying the lead”, to use a journalistic phrase. The lead is “the core of the story.” To me, the fact that your status updates and other info will now be public is a pretty big story. But Facebook leads with this:

Today, we’re launching new tools to give you even greater control over the information you share.

This is true, and having a more instrumented cockpit for privacy is really cool (and a big deal on a site with 350mm folks). But nowhere in the post is the status message shift mentioned. RWW found it in the video explaining the changes in more detail:

According to the video explaining the changes, the new default for status messages is “everyone.” That’s a huge change. Of course it’s not hard for people to keep their existing privacy settings, but confusion around what those settings are is hardly resolved by the phrase “old settings” and a tool-tip phrase appearing when you hover over that option.

A substantial backlash has already begun in comments on the Facebook blog post about the announcement. Previous moves by the company, like the introduction of the news feed, have seen user resistance as well – but this move cuts against the fundamental proposition of Facebook: that your status updates are only visible to those you opt-in to exposing them to. You’ll now have to opt-out of being public and opt-in to communicating only with people you’ve given permission to see your content.

Clearly, this change was not made lightly. And clearly, this is a move that pushes Facebook more toward embracing and extending a Twitter like model in the future.

What’s next? Well, if the changes stand, expect a hell of a lot of action in the third party Facebook developer world….

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9 thoughts on “This is the Facebook Step We Expected: Default Public

  1. Greg says:

    Yeah, bold move. Am I wrong to also expect a lot of action in Facebook clones that aren’t wrapped up in competing with Twitter? My level of interest in an alternative that respects my privacy expectations just went up a notch, and I bet that’s true for a lot of people.

  2. Jim says:

    As the parent of three Facebooking kids, I’m appalled that they have set the default settings to zero privacy. Do they have no moral compass?

  3. Jim says:

    As the parent of three Facebooking kids, I’m appalled that they have set the default settings to zero privacy. Do they have no moral compass?

  4. Jack says:

    I’m getting a little frustrated with how media coverage of these changes, even by respected commentators seems to be missing what I consider to be the “buried lead.” The issue is not that status updates are default public. Its default. You can change it. The lead is what you cannot change. The lead is the unilateral declaration by Facebook that your name, hometown, friends-list and the Pages you fan are now public. This you cannot change. So picture if you will the reaction of Government authorities in Tehran right now. They can go to a profile of someone they know was involved in opposition to this summer’s violence. There they can see who is friends with that person and Pages (essentially meeting places) that that person frequents on the web and see who else frequents those pages. So now what do you think the consequences of this unilateral declaration by Facebook will be? That’s the lead.

  5. Justin Watt says:

    I’m not a Facebook user so take this with a grain of salt, but I see this as turning Facebook into just another “blogging platform”, competing more with, Typepad, and Blogger than Twitter.

  6. I got this “Simplified” privacy setting popup yesterday. WORST USER EXPERIENCE EVER!

    It will confuse the snot out of 90% of the FB users when they try to figure out the difference between selecting “everyone” or “old settings”. What a joke.

    I was joking with a friend that they probably made it so terribly confusing to push / confuse people into opening everything up.

    I’m a huge fan of FaceBook and the wonders it does for connecting people, but this recent issue leaves me terribly unimpressed.

  7. Tires says:

    I agree. I see Facebook as a heavily glorified blog platform and not as much cometeition with Twitter as with WordPress etc.

  8. Bertil Hatt says:

    I have to disagree with you: the privacy settings to public are not a big deal. People can change it; they’ll lobby against anything outrageous; it’s already what twitter (and most blogs) does: 95% of lame content makes public actually invisible by default. Those who matter are those who know you, and nothing changed for them. Yes, they will be drama—but not for long.

    The biggest change this unfortunate by-default will will be for the cases that danah boyd explained today at LeWeb09: teenagers going though a rough patch (or rather, a life-threatening horror story) but those aren’t especially on Facebook; they are everywhere on the Web already.

    What did change was your ability to fine-grain the visibility of your updates, every updates. For many who have distinct identities (say, father & colleague) this is now feasible; it’s not convenient, but certainly will soon will be. It’s the end of the serendipity & not-so-happy accidents on Facebook—it’s the (announced) end of pythic messages only the designated target could decypher, but hundreds would misinterpret, or personal oversharing from colleagues, etc. It’s SNS grown mature: we are finally steping into something articulated that is neither private-as-e-mail or public-as-a-blog, but as-private-as-I-want.

  9. Antonio says:

    The internet safety should never be governed by private decisions of companies like Facebook, Internet is still the security queue because the laws are far behind the evolution of social networks. What I regret is that we are increasingly forced to rely on social networks because we can not remain disconnected from society that practically demands this new way to socialize.