Parks Associates Blog

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Briefly Noted but Pay Attention

This week, Facebook announced that it would give users greater ability to control who can see their profile & photos. The news was not exactly earth shattering but, worthy of notice nonetheless. Let me explain why.

Social networks mirror offline relationships. Most of us (let's hope) already had a circle of 'friends' before we signed up for MySpace and officially knighted people with the title. Likewise, whenever we got together with those friends, we would share information about each other. Social networks simply made the process hyper-efficient by incorporating Web 2.0 technologies.

The challenge for social networking websites is that offline social patterns are incredibly complex. (Just observe teenagers for a while and you'll get the idea.) There is not just one kind of relationship but many subtle variations. The information we share with one friend, many not necessarily be shared with others. Likewise the kind of information shared with coworkers is very different than the kind shared amongst friends.

By allowing users more control over who sees what, Facebook is making itself more reflective of reality. Facebook is not alone, with this respect, and the move will not be the last made along these lines. Far from it, it likely foreshadows the future of social networking.

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