Facebook and Beacon

If you’re not really sure what the hubub is about with Facebook and privacy these days (admit it — you joined, or considered joining, the “Facebook Stop Invading My Privacy” group without really knowing what the hell it meant) WIRED offers a good rundown of Facebook’s “Beacon” platform and what it meant.

Basically they partnered with online retailers who would notify your friends of your purchases. “Frank just bought Dr. Scholl’s Wart Remover,” for example. Or, “Frank just sold his X-Men comic book collection on eBay.” You can see why this might be problematic.

The idea is compelling, in terms of sharing data. If I were a fantasy sports player I might want to update my Facebook friends that I’d drafted new players to my fantasty team, for example. That sounds kinda neat. But Facebook’s problem is that they don’t really have a good revenue stream yet. Ad money is coming in, sure, but to really make it sing, to justify their $15 billion market cap, they need to target it, to take advantage of the socail graphs they’ve built (or, rather, that we’ve built on their site). So the pressure to come up with a way to monetize our relationships is, I’m sure, intense.

I get the sense that in a few years, a company will come around –maybe Facebook, maybe not — will get this mix right, and no one will complain. And then Facebook will become like Vanilla Ice with sampled music: pilloried for something that’s now so commonplace we barely think about it.

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