Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Facebook, has admitted that mistakes were made when the company rolled out its social ad-system, Beacon, whereby interactions users make on participating sites are automatically published onto their Facebook mini-feed.
"We've made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we've made even more with how we've handled them. We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it.", wrote Zuckerberg on the company's blog.
Ironically, one of those mistakes was how long it's taken the company's CEO to respond.
Zuckerberg's mea culpa continues...
When we first thought of Beacon, our goal was to build a simple product to let people share information across sites with their friends. It had to be lightweight so it wouldn't get in people's way as they browsed the web, but also clear enough so people would be able to easily control what they shared. We were excited about Beacon because we believe a lot of information people want to share isn't on Facebook, and if we found the right balance, Beacon would give people an easy and controlled way to share more of that information with their friends.
But we missed the right balance. At first we tried to make it very lightweight so people wouldn't have to touch it for it to work. The problem with our initial approach of making it an opt-out system instead of opt-in was that if someone forgot to decline to share something, Beacon still went ahead and shared it with their friends. It took us too long after people started contacting us to change the product so that users had to explicitly approve what they wanted to share. Instead of acting quickly, we took too long to decide on the right solution. I'm not proud of the way we've handled this situation and I know we can do better.
Facebook has succeeded so far in part because it gives people control over what and how they share information. This is what makes Facebook a good utility, and in order to be a good feature, Beacon also needs to do the same. People need to be able to explicitly choose what they share, and they need to be able to turn Beacon off completely if they don't want to use it.
This has been the philosophy behind our recent changes. Last week we changed Beacon to be an opt-in system, and today we're releasing a privacy control to turn off Beacon completely.
That's right, Beacon can now be opted out of completely, something which users should have been given the option of doing right from the start.
While Facebook can now claim to have "done the right thing", the question still remains: what took them so long, and what motivated the company to jeopardize the trust of its users in the first place? The short history of social networking sites shows that when you take your users for granted, they may just up and leave. Even network effects on the scale of Facebook can't insulate you indefinitely.