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The Facebook Backlash

Posted by: Rob Hof on November 8, 2007

Wow, for an announcement that was supposed to explain how Facebook is worth $15 billion, the company’s Social Ads debut the other day sure got a lot of negative reaction—not least because of the appearance of arrogance by Facebook execs such as CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who was reported to have said: “There is no opting out of advertising.”

A sampling of the tongue-lashing:

Ashkan Karbasfrooshan at “Facebook has … basically sold out its user base.”

From Matt Asay at the CNET blog The Open Road: “Surely there’s more to Web 2.0 than whoring social data for profit. Right? Right???”

Umair Haque at “What makes revolutionaries - well, revolutionary - is the desire to change the world. For the better…. But that’s not what Facebook wants to do. Facebook wants to take over the world…. Evil is deeply embedded in Facebook’s corporate DNA.”

Nick Carr: “The social graph, it turns out, is a platform for social graft. … Facebook, which distinguished itself by being the anti-MySpace, is now determined to out-MySpace MySpace. It’s a nifty system: First you get your users to entrust their personal data to you, and then you not only sell that data to advertisers but you get the users to be the vector for the ads. And what do the users get in return? An animated Sprite Sips character to interact with.”

Om Malik at GigaOm: “This is a privacy disaster waiting to happen.”

From a commenter on my original post: “Wow he reinvented spam! Aren’t we all so proud of this achievement?”

From a commenter on the New York Times’ Bits blog: “Facebook has become Amway. When friendships become mere selling opportunities, we’ve all lost.”

Alexander van Elsas: “Mark, you aren’t getting into the conversation, you are really only trespassing.”

Yikes. Facebook has shown it can adjust to negative feedback, though, and there’s no telling yet whether those views represent Facebook’s 50 million members. (I suspect not, actually, but we’ll find out soon enough.) So I think it’s just a wee bit early to assume its plans won’t work. Plus, Social Ads is at least in part an effort to make advertising more of a conversation. Kudos if it can pull that off, even in a small way.

But the vociferous reaction here makes me wonder if the Facebook honeymoon just ended. If so, good riddance. Blind adoration is never good for a company, or ultimately for its users.

Reader Comments

Will Oldham

November 9, 2007 1:24 AM

My overwhelming reaction to the Facebook announcement is it's just lame. I could care less whether the people on my friends list like Sprite - and my learning that they've added Sprite as a "friend" or whatever does nothing to encourage me to buy Sprite. In fact, it might have the opposite result. Also, the fact that my relationships with my friends on Facebook tend to be weaker/looser than my relationships with my "real" friends makes this less effective. If I don't really know someone, I am even less likely to care what products they like/buy, etc. If this is Facebook's best answer to Google - and best idea regarding how to monetize it's platform, then in my opinion Facebook has some troubled days ahead of it and Microsoft's recent investment looks like a sucker's move.


November 9, 2007 3:57 AM

good post, but so far, I have found the business pages aspect of it interesting.

Prokofy Neva

November 9, 2007 5:18 AM

No, it's not that the Facebook honeymoon ended, it's just that some geeks who are pro-Google, and Google itself, are fanning a lot of hate about Facebook, since it's shaping up to be the only really viable alternative to Google.

Google's social network thingie will do a lot more scraping and mind control than Facebook ever will, since Facebook has many more checks and balances and opt-outs.

I really don't care if Facebook puts some ads somewhere on the user panel in the view space, obviously they have to pay for the service somehow. If Facebook can go on keeping Google out by having an opt-out of the big Googlescrape of our personal data, it will keep me as a customer. If it wants to scrape my data and sell to me, I don't mind, because if you don't like an advertiser you opt out or ignore.

What's way more valuable about the FB organic and viral sort of advertising is that if I want to find out if a certain tape recorder or cell phone or computer works for what I need, I don't have to read some paid-for tech blog, I don't have to see some sort of push advertising from the corporate website, I can actually ask real people, acknowledged industry experts or other users, and aggregate their actual wisdom about the products in a very real way.

I just don't want Google touching that. I want it to *go away*.


November 9, 2007 9:26 AM

Facebook is free to use or not! if you dont like've guessed it...dont use it!!!


November 9, 2007 2:34 PM

Facebook's much hyped revolutionary ad platform = underwhelming


November 12, 2007 9:00 AM

@Prokofy: I don't mind sidebar ads. What I mind is that right now, on my home page, between actual useful social updates, is:
- two credit card feeds.
- one Ziddio feed.
- three Vampire offers.
- etc...

None of it asked for, just automatically sent to me because I am "friended" to someone.

Is that "...valuable...FB organic and viral sort of advertising..." or just plain annoying?

- alphadog

Jeff Laretto

November 12, 2007 10:06 PM

It bears noting that when facebook unveiled the newsfeed feature, a substantial proportion of the user base went ballistic, citing privacy concerns and more.

Fast forward, and the feature has become one of perhaps a small handful of defining features which have made facebook successful (newsfeed, photo tagging, platform, etc....)

At least right now, no other social network does as good of a job linking/updating people as facebook does. I wouldn't expect a signficant user backlash - most people really don't care.

Whats more, we may discover that social ads are actually beneficial and relevant, and they may ultimately change our methods of consumption. Definately too soon to tell though.


November 14, 2007 9:21 AM

As a frequent user of Facebook - I am most interested in how this will impact me as a user. If it's anything the way of myspace -- bye bye!

But, I have faith in Facebook -- they might be arrogant, but so far they have reason. The open source apps are amazing. You want to know why Facebook is worth so much? See the previous sentence.

Facebook provides a firm a cool, interesting, 2.0 way into today's kids -- and by the way adults. Professionals are using the site too -- not just kids.


September 20, 2008 1:08 AM

Straight up; Revamped Facebook sucks. I'm trying to use it still and it's enormously difficult. And I'm not interested in special interests piping up here to tell me this or that about Facebook, ignoring my straightforward complaints, based on my actual use of the program. And I'm not alone.

Get as technical as you want about one or two details - I'm not tech savvy and don't understand all the unhelpful jargon anyway - but overall, the program has just crashed.

Stuff is broke. Yesterday I tried to post to my wall (wondering where the 'post to wall' button is) only to get a message telling me that it can't be done. That was with the 'post note' button. Was that because there was a link in the post? Then I tried to post something with a link in it using 'share a link', to no avail. Again, A message simply said that it couldn't be done. Then today I find those posts, rather buried in 'notes' (I wanted them on my wall) in duplicate. Thankfully there's a delete button. Wait for it. 'There was an error trying to delete the post. Try later.' Ya, I guess I'll have to. Jerks!

Sam hamilton

June 1, 2009 8:42 PM

If you are tired of facebook but want a way to connect with artists and musicians then you should check out

If you are tired of facebook but still want to connect with your friends then pick up the phone...

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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