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Facebook will fail if they violate the "unwritten" rules

February 17th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

facebook_protest What Facebook chooses to do with your content in the coming months/years will unequivocally determine its fate. Period.  I really could stop the post here and we could all move on but for some of you that have been reading and I suggest the following:

1.) Facebook Change of Policy: Why You Should Care

2.) How do You Feel About Facebook Owning Your Content?

3.) Zuckerburg On Who Owns User Data On Facebook: It’s Complicated

lets spend a minute to talk about the possibilities.

What if Facebook did sell your photo to and advertiser and they made a commercial which sold a product which made millions and Facebook got half.

What if Facebook took your idea that you posted in your note and sold it to a VC company who turned your idea into a multi-million dollar product which in turn made millions for Facebook

What if….

The list goes on and if you read Mona’s examples you may be left with an uneasy feeling that you should be protecting your information.  You might even go so far as to stop posting pictures, and notes and comments for fear that your information will be sold to the highest bidder.  You might even become an ultra  radical and remove your profile from the site and start an "I Hate Facebook" Bebo site.  Go ahead, its a free country.

I am going to tell you why you shouldn’t though

Content is King

First of all everyone at Facebook knows that as long as there is fresh new content by new users each day – people will continue to show up.  The content (which some people are losing site of) is the only thing that Facebook has going for it.  From pictures, to status updates and comments.  From videos and links to (yes even) those stupid Bumper Sticker requests.  Its all good.  Facebook has more content then it knows what to do with and that’s why they are wrestling with how they handle it.

The recent updates to the TOS is really just a sneaky way for Facebook to value its site.  Advertising sucks and will continue to suck as users become more savvy towards old school marketing tactics.  Although there is still some value in the number of people that visit a site its the information that is placed into this site which ultimately holds this thing together.

Erich Schonfield sums it up like this:

When you share your data with someone else, whether it be an email or a photo, it becomes their data as well. You cannot normally rescind data you share with other people in an e-mail. So why should a social network be any different?

And I for one agree. Facebook is a digital history book of all your interactions (good or bad) with all of the people that participate in your network.  If that digital history starts to get holes in it the site loses its luster.  The changes are an insurance policy to investors and suitors which Facebook will use to improve its valuation.

What If?

So back to the what if.  Well what if one day Facebook started to use your content for profit with or without your knowledge.  What would you do?  You would do the same thing that everyone else would do.  You would leave.  But before you left, you would leave your mark.  You would tell your friend, your friends friend and anyone else who would listen.  You would start a group.  You would reach out to advocates and you would tell them your story.  You would inform them that Facebook has used your content and is now profiting and that you got nothing.

It will become easier and easier for ordinary people to be heard.  The walls of communication have been knocked down.  Facebook knows this.  They understand this very well.  They don’t want you leave and if they are going to put this at risk then they will fail.  Miserably.

Up to know Facebook and I have an agreement in writing and one in principal. Until either of these agreements are broken I think we are safe.  And if any of you think that its hard to re-build something like Facebook – think again.

Update (2.18.2009): Facebook posts this message at the top of the home page today:

Terms of Use Update

Over the past few days, we have received a lot of feedback about the new terms we posted two weeks ago. Because of this response, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised. For more information, visit the Facebook Blog.
If you want to share your thoughts on what should be in the new terms, check out our group Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

Hmmm… thank you for validating my point. No need to worry.

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