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FaceBook Faces RSS-feed Backlash

by Robyn Tippins on September 7, 2006

A seemingly helpful feature Facebook unveiled this week has created a furor amongst the members of the social network. Earlier this week the student-dominated Facebook organized friend information into convenient RSS feeds. A friend, who liked the idea, showed me her login screen yesterday that had the RSS feeds on your greetings page. Now the same info is on your profile page:

yesterday's greetings screen at facebook

Here’s today’s revised greetings page, stripped of friend info. However, once you’re on your profile the same RSS feeds are there still, with all your friend updates.
today's greeting's screen at facebook

By this morning there were more than 554K members (35k comments) who had joined the group, “Students Against Facebook Newsfeed.” That is a substantial number of people, especially when you consider the extremely short time that had elapsed and the fact that Facebook has less than 10 million members, which is, by no means, inconsequential, it’s an astounding number. Even with MySpace’s 107 million members, 554K joining one group in 2 days would be enormous.

The main fear with users is that their info, which is on their own profile page will now be broadcast to all people they are connected to, even if they are only acquaintances. Case in point:

One of my friends connected with a friend of a friend, just because they had a mutual acquaintance. He sent her a friend request and she allowed the connection because they both knew Steve. Well, let’s say she’s got some emotional stuff going on and while she’s ok sharing it with her close friends, now Steve is alerted to her emotional ramblings, and they barely even know each other.

Of course, you could take it even further. She could be describing any semi-private affair, and while Steve could certainly have clicked on her profile and viewed her writings, he probably would never have done that. However, now he probably will become almost a voyeur as each day he gets the RSS feed on his startup page detailing her love life.

3 Possible Outcomes to this debacle:

1-Facebook Caves
It appears they are already considering what to do and stemming the flow of anger in the meantime by going with newsfeeds on signin. However, you still get your friend update page when you get to your own page, so members will certainly not be appeased. I hope they cave and apologize. Smartest move…
2-Facebook Becomes Friendster
Don’t think this couldn’t be deadly for them. Friendster’s mass exodus was due to their inability to listen to their users.

3-Facebook users become superficial
So many users are open and prolific on Facebook. They create silly group names and poke each other repeatedly. Will that stop now that everyone will be daily reminded of your goings on? Will spammers invade now that RSS if offered to conveniently give out their info? Will this page become as useless as the bulletin feature on MySpace (which is, incidentally, a user-initiated process)?

What do you think?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

TechAddress September 7, 2006 at 10:43 am

Mark Zuckerberg: Founder of Facebook Responds. Read comments at: http://techaddress.wordpress.com/2006/09/06/mark-zuckerberg-founder-of-facebook-responds/

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nemik September 7, 2006 at 3:09 pm

Actually its not an RSS feed, it is just a feed. If it was true RSS you could get the XML from somewhere.

However I did make a little PHP script that does transform it into an RSS feed: http://blog.nemik.net/2006/09/06/facebook-news-feed-rss/

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Robyn Tippins September 7, 2006 at 8:09 pm

Thanks Nemik. :)

TechAddress, I’d love to hear your opinion on Zuckerberg’s comments. This line in particular sounded like they weren’t listening, even though the purpose of the post was to tell users that they were:

“stalking isn’t cool; but being able to know what’s going on in your friends’ lives is. This is information people used to dig for on a daily basis, nicely reorganized and summarized so people can learn about the people they care about. You don’t miss the photo album about your friend’s trip to Nepal. Maybe if your friends are all going to a party, you want to know so you can go too. Facebook is about real connections to actual friends, so the stories coming in are of interest to the people receiving them, since they are significant to the person creating them.”

Social sites should err on the user’s opinions, for the most part. A change like this, especially after seeing the impact the Netscape page change had recently for their users, should have been announced and explained. And, any group that manages to grow to epic proportions like this should have been taken seriously. Any social site’s motto should be, “we listen to you because you pay our bills (or you will one day).”

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Branson Shows March 12, 2011 at 2:56 am

With the whole thing that appears to be building throughout this specific subject material, all your perspectives are rather radical. Even so, I am sorry, but I do not give credence to your entire suggestion, all be it radical none the less. It looks to everyone that your opinions are not entirely rationalized and in fact you are your self not really wholly convinced of your argument. In any case I did enjoy reading through it.

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