From the what did you expect department, the Wall Street Journal reports on Facebook developing a targeted ad system, similar to what Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are doing to generate higher pricing and tens of billions in revenue.
The new service would let advertisers visit a Web site to choose a much wider array of characteristics for the users who should see their ads -- based not only on age, gender and location, but also on details such as favorite activities and preferred music, people familiar with the matter say. Facebook would use its technology to point the ads to the selected groups of people without exposing their personal information to the advertisers.
These ads would show up differently than the banner ads and boxed flyers that appear on the borders of Facebook pages, say people familiar with the plan. Instead, they would be interspersed with items on the "news feed," which is a running list of short updates on the activities of a user's Facebook friends. In addition, the ads would show up on Facebook pages that feature services provided by other companies, one person says.
Facebook has enormous amounts of data about individuals, a kind of digital DNA, as well the social graph, to create profiles that advertisers could bid on in an automated system. The information gathered by Facebook is much richer than what Google and others can gather through search. If you thought that Facebook was unwise to sell out to Yahoo or another company for a few billion, think again.
I'm not sure I want Facebook deeply mining my data and providing it anonymized and clustered to advertisers, or super-targeted, contextual ads embedded in my Facebook news feed. I would expect Facebook to be flexible and offer users and opt-out alternative, perhaps a proxy revenue-per-person-per-year fee to avoid getting inundated with "targeted" ads or "recommendations," similar to how Amazon personalizes its service for users but with data from a person's social graph.