Thanks to Eszter for posting this:
On a different note, i keep on following the buzz about Facebook (FB) criticism due to deployment of Beacon platform. For those who did not have a chance to follow, recently FB launched a platform that allows them to follow you to third-party websites (anybody said spyware?) and if you make a purchase there, news about it would go to your FB news feed (for your friends to see, follow your opinion leadership, and of course go and buy something from that company). Of course they do not follow you to any website, but only to those who have an advertising agreement with FB, but nevertheless, this move raised a lot of antagonism and questions of privacy. It also unleashed a wave of critique of FB and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg.
One of the things i noticed recently is people being surprised by FB non-responsiveness to the PR crisis it is going through. The assumption is that to manage this wave of negativity, FB has to make substantive changes to the Beacon platform followed by a massive PR campaign. Although i have my own critique of FB and more so questions about the nature of their business and its long-term sustainability, this later wave, particularly expectations for response, made me thinking.
I wonder if Zuckerberg’s strategy of ignoring the critique is actually the correct one. I remember about over a year ago, FB introduced the news feed. Back then it raised a lot of criticism from the privacy advocates and there was, not as strong, but still noticeable, negative buzz about FB. I don’t remember the company investing as much in PR back then. What it did was adding a couple of tweaks to make its users feel as if they were in charge of their privacy and in a matter of a couple of months the wave of negativity died and, as we can see today, people are happily using the feed. In fact, can we imagine FB without the news feed these days?
Now, following the current criticism, FB also added some minor tweaks to the Beacon platform, and is now waiting for the wave of criticism to path. The main threat to FB when its users would start massively leaving it. Getting the users angry by exposing their Christmass surprises is indeed a step in that direction. But in my (unsupported by any kind of evidence) opinion this is not enough. Simply because most of FB users do not care or do not realize what is going on. Talking to my friends, for example, i gain further support to an intuition that people don’t really view it as a big deal. They continue logging into their FB account, poke each other, bite, send virtual gifts and drinks, etc. and at the end of the day this is all FB needs.
So, from FB point of view,the business is as usual and all they need to do is wait until the critique in mass media and the blogosphere dies out. After all how long can this be news/blog-worthy? People will get bored and it will happen sooner than we can think. Once the wave of negative publicity is no longer there, the advertisers will come back, and the next thing we know Beacon will be a recognized standard in the industry. Doesn’t it sound as a logic scenario?
I still have a sense that the basic idea behind FB is bubblish (linking back to the video :), but maybe at the end of the day, FB is actually more strategic about how it is handling the current crisis than what it appears in the press and the blogosphere?