This is the second of the two posts regarding Facebook (FB), with the first (The State of Facebook) being posted yesterday. Why? The site is a cultural outlier. I'm intrigued by the site's growth as well as its ability to alter world events. The bulk of Facebook's users reside outside the United States. Moreover, some countries are experiencing growth rates over 3000%. This is an actual global community... something humanity has never witnessed before.
The true reason I follow and write about Facebook is the controversy. Global access opens up a world of moral and ethical issues that we, as a society, must sort out. To complicate matters, each of these countries has its own set of standards. It is truly an intricate path, full of potential pitfalls.
Facebook's largest competitor bowed out of the race yesterday when MySpace announced that it was changing from a social networking site to an "entertainment portal." MySpace has dropped the tag "a place for friends," as well as removing the dot com from its ass-end. The one advantage that MySpace held of FB was music and its appeal to musicians and artists. MySpace, once the largest social network in the world, was eclipsed by FB in December 2008, as seen below on the graph I stole from Compete.com:
Today, the self-proclaimed third largest social site, Tagged, got nailed for invasion of privacy by New York's Mario Cuomo. Left without apparent competition, Facebook's just been cleared for world domination. The only obstacle in its path is, ironically, themselves.
That leads me to ask this question:
Why would Facebook allow advertisers to hijack browsers? Additionally, why does FB allow an advertiser to pose as an application and use your friends' faces and names to goad you into clicking?
I was a victim of browser hijack two days in a row. The first time, I thought it was either a mistake, or possibly the computer I was using. The second time, however, involved a different computer. Here are the screenshots that I took:
The image on the left is obviously Netflix. The image on the right is a "Gift's for Facebook Users" hijack that comes with a fun pop-up that asks if you "really want to navigate away from this page." Yes, I really did since I was pounding the crap out of the "Back" button.
It's probably a good thing that Facebook didn't have any advertisers during its growth years. It's imperative for social networks and blogs to build credibility. Crappy ad practices are usually indicative of crappy sites.
However, as the Facebook demographic skews older, it's not likely that Adults 35+ will put up with much adverting crap. They'll either complain, or leave. Especially if they run into the other questionable tactic, which is the "quiz" that uses your contacts to “challenge” you to an IQ Test. The questions are sophomoric, and your cell number is required to see your score... can you say SHADY?
It is possible that these "problems" will be resolved through attrition as larger advertisers are attracted to Facebook. Most big companies have deeper pockets and well-established brands. On the other hand, many current advertisers haven't established any brand equity, and don't have much to lose.
Controversy has surrounded the site from inception, and the real question is, "How long will Facebook's advertisers be allowed to abuse users before a revolt or exodus begins?" Additionally, the 6-year-old site has attracted criticisms ranging from arbitrary account closures to modifying the User Agreement in an effort to claim all site content was the property of Facebook. Other issues have included invasion of privacy, publishing of user surfing habits, data mining, click fraud, censorship, and disabled accounts.
Large advertisers may opt for a "wait and see" position so as not to tarnish their brand image. Truthfully, many of the "infractions" listed above may be justified as rookie mistakes -- the founders went from college students one day to owners of the fastest growing social network in the world on the next. If these were beginner's mistakes, then they shouldn't be happening anymore. Yet, each new day brings new obstacles to Facebook.
Some of the problems are self-inflicted. After a revision of the User Agreement, the members revolted. Yet, that seems to be the exception and not the norm. When Facebook changed platforms, there was bitching and buzz, but no action. Thus far, Facebook has pretty much determined its own fate with no repercussions. As site membership grows, it's reasonable to assume that members will tolerate less and expect more. It's also likely that millions of users will win most disagreements. But as of now, albeit being a global community, Facebook isn't an well-organized community, allowing the Facebook management team both time and leverage.
Let your advertisers abuse us while they can, Zuckerberg...