RE: Open Letter from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg

December 2, 2009·

If you have logged into Facebook at all this evening (and by evening, I mean the evening of December 1st. I am writing this at 11:30PM), then you have most likely seen the message from Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. I won’t recount the whole thing here, but being that I love Facebook and I write about social media, I figured I would at least put in my two cents.

The big over-arching message is that Facebook has now reached 350 MILLION users. That is a lot of poking. And that with such a large growth of the network, the privacy concerns and needs of its users are going to change and evolve. Facebook prides itself on being a walled community that allows its users to completely customize privacy preferences and be able to CHOOSE who gets to see what information. So, with that being said, Facebook has decided to do away with regional networks and create a more basic “Friends” – “Friends of Friends” and “Everyone” network and preference system.  Here is an excerpt from Zuckerberg’s letter regarding this decision:

“The plan we’ve come up with is to remove regional networks completely and create a simpler model for privacy control where you can set content to be available to only your friends, friends of your friends, or everyone.

“We’re adding something that many of you have asked for — the ability to control who sees each individual piece of content you create or upload. In addition, we’ll also be fulfilling a request made by many of you to make the privacy settings page simpler by combining some settings. If you want to read more about this, we began discussing this plan back in July.

“Since this update will remove regional networks and create some new settings, in the next couple of weeks we’ll ask you to review and update your privacy settings. You’ll see a message that will explain the changes and take you to a page where you can update your settings. When you’re finished, we’ll show you a confirmation page so you can make sure you chose the right settings for you. As always, once you’re done you’ll still be able to change your settings whenever you want.”

I remember when I signed up for my Facebook account when I was a sophomore in college – this was Fall 2004, RIGHT when Facebook came out. Everyone at my school was so excited about this “new thing.” I think back and Facebook was so basic. When I first joined you couldn’t even upload pictures, let alone tag them, definitely no video, and there was DEFINITELY no Farmville. At the time, Facebook was this “cool thing” ONLY for college kids. Then they let high schoolers join. College students felt like under-agers were showing up at the party and totally ruining it. And so on, and so on.

Obviously things have changed.

Zuckerberg himself probably could never have anticipated the rate at which Facebook would grow and the impact that it would have on the world. Yes, the world. Facebook has completely changed the world. [Big bold statement, but you know it’s true].

I actually had notices a few weeks ago that I was no longer listed in the Raleigh/Durham network. After poking around, it turned out a lot of people had been “removed” from their respective networks.

I understand the intention behind Zuckerberg’s decision to remove regional networks, but I have to disagree. I like being able to search for people in my “network.” It gives me a sense of connection and I’m able to reach out to people “locally.” It makes it easier to share local events, I can send out messages only to my friends in my network, I can contact friends in another network, etc. etc. etc. Not everything that I post is going to be relevant to ALL my friends. By being able to break my connections down by network, I’m able to make my relationships more personal and more meaningful.

I will be very interested to see how it works once it is all laid out and the new “network” (or whatever you want to call it) system is officially in place. It could end up being great. Who knows?

What do you think? Do you think Zuckerberg’s decision to remove regional networks is a mistake or a good thing? Do you like that it will be a “simpler” breakdown of “Friends” “Friends of Friends” or “Everyone”? Or do you think it’s no big deal? I want to know what you think…

[Just my two cents.]