Facebook’s Risky New Approach to (Forced) Sharing

Posted on September 27th 2011

True to form, yesterday Facebook rolled out a whole host of new features at its F8 developer conference. The pick of the bunch was a new timeline (see what mine looks like on the right) and closer integration with music and media services. The latter will now be integrated into the platform through social apps.

A central part of this last development is that anything you do on these services – I’ve installed Spotify and the Guardian so far – will be automatically shared on your Facebook profile and through the new Facebook Ticker. This means every track you listen to, every article you read will be shared. The service is opt-out, so most of what you do will be shared automatically.

Selective v. forced sharing

Selective sharing – where you decide what you want to share with others – is how it has always been on the web and there is a lot to commend about this approach. But for Zuckerberg, it is clearly not enough. And, while social media cheerleaders will happily be pumping every Spotify track and Yahoo News article they read in front of their poor friends/subscribers/fans, I suspect the vast majority of Facebook users will be less enthusiastic.

Forced – or what Zuckerberg calls ‘frictionless’ – sharing will bring about a stream of consciousness, pulling in everything you do on the web.

I think there are a number of key problems with this approach that might come back to bite Zuckerberg in the arse:

  • Information overload – an obvious one here, but the increase in the amount of content will merely add to the sense of information overload. Will Facebook’s algorithms be able to effectively pick out the gems (in your eyes) from the tosh?
  • Privacy – Privacy has often been an issue for Facebook and the reason for this seems to lie in the fact that Zuckerberg’s vision – where everything should be seen by everyone – is at odds with what most users want and also how the site was initially constructed. It’s not hard to see how these latest feature changes make privacy harder and harder to control…
  • Lack of curation – but perhaps the most important issue I have with all this is the lack of curation, the lack of quality control. Some of the stuff I listen to on Spotify is awful. After a few seconds I regret listening to it and move onto something else. But my fans on Facebook won’t necessarily know that. Sharing works best for me when people I am linked up with identify something they think is great and actively make a decision to share it with others. This new forced sharing approach seems to overlook this fundamental process. And that is something that, for me, makes sharing less useful.

DannyWhatmough

Danny Whatmough

Danny Whatmough is a technology PR consultant at Wildfire (http://www.wildfirepr.co.uk/). Danny blogs at DannyWhatmough.com (http://www.dannywhatmough.com/) and the Wildfire Blog (http://blog.wildfirepr.co.uk/). You can also follow him on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/dannywhatmough).
See Full Profile >

Comments

All I can say at this point is thanks for the warning!

If people do not like what FB has done, check out "of that hotel" and find another medium to stay in touch professionally and personally - perhaps the two need to be separated.

 

Hi Danny,

It's not forced. You can turn off sharing by going to: Account Settings > Apps > Edit, and then choose App Activity. Just customize whether you want the app to post activity or not. You can even be selective in terms of who sees the activity.

Forced and Frictionless are not the same thing as you elude to above.

Facebook is now more lateral in terms of engagement opportunities. It's causing interactions to go through the roof. 

The new changes are refreshing.

Danny, great article and though Facebook, indeed is not making 'forced' sharing compulsory as Patrick suggests there are issues with 'sharing as a default' because in true Facebook style the controls are hard to find and most people do not bother. 

The real issue, however, is what Facebook actually does with the data and how it will affect the web of tomorrow. I wrote about it after the f8 conference - it will be really interesting to see where we go from here.