Social networking could come at a price
Yesterday in my review of blogs at work I ran across an item at Inside Facebook, the blog following the developments of the widely popular social networking site, regarding the recent change in Facebook’s terms of service. Facebook’s recent change in terms basically granted the site an “irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense)” to do just about anything they wanted with anything you posted or linked to in your Facebook account. The change set off a backlash in public commentary and news coverage. In true form of the new world, Facebook has since backed down.
Well, almost. The original move by Facebook created a backlash of users across the world with many cancelling their accounts and deciding to take themselves off the Facebook grid. News stories in the New York Times and Business Week covered the change and the revolt in articles yesterday. The move also lit up the blogosphere including wall postings within the social network giant itself. With such a public outcry over the move in a world becoming more sensitive to privacy Facebook decided to revert the terms back to the original model of two weeks ago and take public commentary.
Zuckerburg stated in his personal blog yesterday that the company wrestled with what to do about the change in terms and how to deal with the backlash. “More than 175 million people use Facebook. If it were a country, it would be the sixth most populated country in the world. Our terms aren’t just a document that protect our rights; it’s the governing document for how the service is used by everyone across the world. Given its importance, we need to make sure the terms reflect the principles and values of the people using the service,” said Zuckerburg.
Facebook has become so popular in the new Web 2.0 world that it grows in numbers almost equivalent to a city the size of Austin every day. In just 5 weeks it great from 150 million members to 175 million and the growth is worldwide. Today, over 5% of the population of Argentina is a member of Facebook. On Christmas Day 5% of the entire Internet traffic in the UK was Facebook traffic. It has reached a size of phenomenal reach.
I can understand Facebook’s move to extend license as more people began joining the site and sharing information. It was primarily done to protect itself from any potential lawsuits regarding the content its users load and share with friends. The problem is that managing that content sharing to prevent any litigation about the content is an impossible task. Facebook took the broadest stroke it could to absolve any issues in the courts, hopefully.
In true social networking form Facebook is now taking public commentary on its policy. It has created the Facebook Bill of Rights group to allow Facebook users the opportunity to comment and share among each other about the change and possible solutions. This morning over 16,000 people had joined the group and have been providing input with over 2,500 wall posts up to this morning.
Facebook plans to glean through the mountain of commentary to look for intent, options and possible solutions to the problem. It’s a bold new move but one that makes sense in this new world of social networking. Facebook is taking in the “voice of the customers” before making any more moves on this matter. In other words, they are eating their own dog food. I’m sure they have learned from this move and will help improve the operations of the company regarding future moves that affect the “virtual nation.”