At the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco this week, Napster co-founder Sean Parker, who at one point worked as Facebook's president (he owns 4 percent of the company), went on record to say that the social network's biggest problem is not privacy. He wasn't there to just downplay Facebook's various obstacles and challenges. In fact, he offered his opinion of the bigger issue for the social networking giant: that some of its heaviest users have defected to other services because of a lack of decent controls.
"I don't think privacy is an issue," Parker said. "Maybe that's controversial, but I don't think that's Facebook's biggest problem. I think Facebook's biggest problem is the glut of information that power users are overwhelmed with."
More specifically, Parker said: "Maybe the strategic threat to Facebook is that power users have gone to Twitter or power users have gone to Google+." While discussing the prospect of Google+ beating Facebook, he acknowledged it as a possibility, but only because Facebook overtook MySpace when it seemed so unlikely. He said two things need to happen: Facebook needs to fail and Google+ needs to succeed. "Facebook would have to screw up royally and Google would have to do something really smart."
Let's go back to the power users. Parker says they are "actually very important to the network because they are propping the network up" since they are "contributing tons of content to Facebook which is being consumed by everyone else." He insists that some of these users have left Facebook for Twitter and Google+ because the social networking giant has not been offering good controls over the information they see and who they share it with.
"The way to address the need of power users is to give them more tools," Parker said. "They want to control what information they're seeing by basically organizing their friends into lists and that should happen organically. You should never have to some separate management interface and categorize people one-by-one."
Facebook revamped its Friend Lists last month and Parker acknowledged that this is a step in the right direction. The next goal, in his opinion, is to get Facebook users sharing content with just their specific lists of friends.
As for the rumor about Zuckerberg and Parker having a drunk row over Facebook and Spotify, Parker denied it on multiple counts. Facebook won't confirm or deny the story, but that's because companies rarely comment on rumors, and apparently this one is just so far off the mark it's not even worth discussing.
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