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Facebook’s Like Button – What’s Not To Like?

facebook like button

In 2010, Facebook introduced their famous Like button.  Since that time, it’s found its way across the web.  Back in 2011, celebrating the one year anniversary of the Like button, HubSpot published statistics on its use to that point outlining “2.5 million websites have integrated with Facebook (including more than 80 of comScore’s U.S. Top 100 websites and over half of comScore’s Global Top 100 websites)”. Fast forward to 2012 and the time of it’s S-1 filing, Yahoo! reported that Facebook was generating 2.7 billion likes and comments a day…31,250 every second!  And that is only half the story, less than half.  Even if 10% of Like button impressions were clicked (which is a stratospheric number), that means the “Like” button is still collecting data on the other 90% of traffic.  Very rough math:  27 billions data collecting events from not only on Facebook but across the most popular sites on the web.  ClickZ has a good article of the gold mine that is Facebook’s Like button and cite:

the company creates an impression log every time a signed in member views a Like button or social plug-in on a third party site, regardless of whether or not they interact with it. That record, which is tied to members’ unique user IDs, includes information on IP address, URL, date, time, and browser, and is retained for a period of 90 days.

This is an amazing accomplishment.  Many in the industry including investors already know the power that this represents.  Facebook has an engine that is learning with every page view about users and for certain, is synthesizing it into a data warehouse that marketers can only dream about.  The possible use cases for such an engine are profound ranging from more astute targeting on Facebook with advertising and offers, to building an internet wide advertising platform (aka Beacon) that is every bit as powerful (if not more so) to Google Ad Sense.

Think about it from the perspective of a publisher on an online web site, for example, the New York Times or WSJ.  They strive to learn about their audience and their behaviors so that they have generate more online revenue.  However, they have an issue:  their users have to register and be logged in so they can tie the profile of their user to their activity.  Many publishers sit on a ton of anonymous cookie data that they cannot identify at a personalized level.  This is why online behavioral targeting and ad exchange solutions are vital to them.  In the case of the Like button, users have already registered at Facebook (you have to register to use the service) and thus an ID is in their system tied to an actual person.  Each time the Like button is sent somewhere on the internet, Facebook knows who is looking at that page.  A click on the Like button is just additional data.  So in this scenario, Facebook most likely knows more about the users behavior than the publisher themselves.

Plenty more to discuss on this topic.  If you are interested, the lastest edition of MIT Technology Review has an article entitled What Facebook Knows as its centerpiece.

 

 

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Power of the Digital Pen

Remember the days of high school English class or getting a big paper assignment in college? I do. I never minded the act of writing; I was the type that thought having a “pen pal” in some far off country was pretty cool. (Mine never wrote back). However the concept of getting an assignment that had to be ten double-space pages with a max of a one-inch margins or a paper that had to be exactly 1000 words always seemed daunting. I always waited until the last minute to do it that made the entire experience even more traumatic.

My personal favorite was from Mr. Hart’s AP English class: Describe your view through an imaginary window. I am still slightly aggravated with myself to this day, or I should say, perplexed, that I didn’t just think to look out of an actual window in my house and describe what I saw. Instead I sat at my desk with the worst writer’s block, tapping my pencil against the desk, painfully trying to force an imagined view into my head. What’s funny is I think back now to the trauma of it all and really can’t remember what I wrote; I think it had something to do with icicles.

So it is with that in mind that I often think about how much the web changed the written landscape. Think about how many writers and content producers beyond traditional media (you know, the people who loved writing and creating the stuff even back in high school).  Many of them are a direct result of the advent of the digital pen. Much of the content produced may not be Poe, Emerson, Rand or Shakespeare but it doesn’t need to be.  Clive Thompson has an essay called The New Literacy in the September issue of Wired that focuses on this phenomenon and also reflects on whether the “digital pen” is hurting the overall quality if writing.

People are creating some of the best content on the web today. Blogging enables thousands to produce incredible content across genres. Think about a well-thought blog post that you’ve read recently. Descriptive title, subject statement, number of paragraphs backing up an argument and some type of conclusion perhaps. That sure sounds a heck of a lot like the type of assignment many of us ran from.  And that doesn’t scratch the surface.  There is the micro-content world that Thompson touches on such as Twitter and Facebook.  Look at the extent of content, solid writing at that, taking place in the enterprise in the form of business plans, emails and PowerPoint presentations.

Content creation takes place us around us all the time.  Writing is getting churned out like crazy. The digital pen has enabled us to publish our thoughts in an easy way.  Even those of us who dreaded writing our view through an imaginary window could rail something out in 20 minutes without thinking twice. I find this truly amazing.

And guess what, how’s this for an essay?  519 words.  Knocked it out the iPhone on the train ride into the city this morning.  Wonder if Mr. Hart would approve?

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Are you really anonymous?

There’s an article entitled,  Social Security, in the July/August edition of MIT Tech Review. (I’m behind in my reading so just catching up, I plan on starting to read the next one on the train ride home). First off, misleading title. The article has nothing to do with the federal retirement program that will be insolvent and have no funds to pay me when I am 65, 67, 70 or 75. Now to the meat of my thoughts on the article.

The article discusses the concept of Anonymous social software and goes on regarding research that has found that using data mining techniques on your social network, one can be personally identified. Pretty interesting. But not surprising. So let’s go back to the concept: Anonymous Social Software. I am not sure I really “follow” the concept. (pun intended).

People who blog anonymously. This I can understand. You can write all on your own, not disclose it is you to anyone and take active steps to not get identified. A great example is Fake Steve Jobs who had quite a run writing a blog without being personally identified. However, without fostering a commenting dialog, I can posit that blogging is not social software, it is simply a publishing platform. Once you begin an interaction (a conversation) do you really enter the realm of social software.

So, can people really be anonymous and use social software. People who want to remain anonymous take strides to not release any more information than they have to not give themselves away. In most cases, this is precisely the opposite of what one tries to accomplish with social software. The point is to interact, to follow. And of course every connection in of itself is additional information that narrows the focus on who you could be. Back on the Fake Steve Jobs, even Daniel Lyons couldn’t not remain anonymous. His writing style alone eventually gave him away.

Another subtle point is the article discussed security and anonymity as if they are one in the same thing. However, security and anonymity are not the same thing nor should they be. Whether identified or not, people want their system and data secure. I am not anonymous writing this article but I want the article to be secure. The same goes for my newsfeed on Facebook or my stream on Twitter. If you want security, use the web privately, private rooms, storage, feeds, etc. Yes, there is the raging “security of cloud computing” conversation going on but that is fully another topic and one which I believe will resolve itself.

The big question people should be asking themselves is why are they trying to remain anonymous? This issue has existed since the days of mainstream message boards and chat rooms. You are going on the web and posting information fully out in the public. A “handle” isn’t security. CEOs of publicly traded grocery store chains even know this.

My view is if you are venturing out and going to interact on the web, you have to have a comfort of living in public. Fred Wilson had a great commentary on this. It is something that everyone posting information should consider. It is much more about your own personal attitude and approach than whether the software/meme should be maintaining your anonymity. Sure many will disagree with me. I’m just not sold that you can have one without the other.

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Merging of Worlds, Look Out!

As most know at this point, Facebook has acquired Friendfeed. There seem to be 50 plus posts on the topic on Techmeme. Mixed reviews at best on this one. From my reads, most seem more negative slanting. Scoble is excited but thinks this is end for Friendfeed as we know it. I would agree (with the this being the end part), Facebook clearly has no interest in running a separate brand and best we can hope for is to have full open data streaming into the Facebook platform. Louis Gray is watching and comments in a funny “girls in high school” parody. Steve Rubel has an interesting take that this is the next step towards true lifestreaming.

Quick take on first glance:

  1. Can’t blame the Friendfeed team.  They built a great product and an exit to Facebook makes good shareholder return sense.  The fact the price tag was $50M really shows how bad the economy has taken a toll on liquidity.  I would think based on recent history, Friendfeed would have gone a higher price tag even sans revenue.
  2. Can’t blame the Facebook team.  As Scoble mentioned, Friendfeed was a lead innovator in the social stream space and Facebook was “borrowing” many of the innovations coming from them.  They are acquiring a great team that knows how to execute that should only continue to help them build their continually improving platform.

Personally, even while it may make sense for both teams, I can’t help to be a bit negative on this one when I probe into it a bit more.  Some of my concerns can be remedied with time, some not.

  1. I would have liked to see Friendfeed to continue to evolve with more runway, they were doing some great stuff even if their penetration was only into the real early adopters.  It would be neat to see if they could cross the chasm just as Twitter did.  But perhaps they understood that it was too complicated for the mainstream.  This one we’ll never know, the writing is on the wall that Friendfeed will be absorbed fully.
  2. I am concerned regarding innovation and also the number of players.  Louis Gray made a great point when he expressed a concern that there could be four major players, Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft.  We need more independent companies doing stuff in the space.  Time will play out here.
  3. Friendfeed never developed into a business model (perhaps this is why selling makes sense).  I always thought that their platform while fantastic for consumers had a great revenue opportunity for the enterprise, there is big revenue in the B2B collaborationa and communication space.  No one has won there yet and current market toosl do not satisfy the need fully.
  4. I need more than one stream in my lifestream.  As Rubel comments, lifestreaming is upon us with this acquisition.  Here I am not so sure.  I need more than one “sub-stream” in my lifestream in Facebook.  Fred Wilson removed everyone and made Facebook his private lifestream for exactly this reason.  For him, Facebook is personal and Twitter is everyone.  For me, I am going through the same conflict.  I have personal and some business people (that I actually know) in Facebook.  This creates a gray area between Facebook and LinkedIn.  I don’t know (in person) many of the people I interact with on Friendfeed; I don’t want them becoming “friends” yet on Facebook.  Already, I don’t like the fact that former business colleagues can see on Facebook what my former high school friends are posting in my news feed if I comment on it.  This whole area is an issue and is ripe for innovation.
  5. Facebook permissioning.  I know many of you are going to jump on point #4 above and say “Lou, Facebook has good privacy controls and you just need to manage the groups”.  Okay, maybe so but it isn’t clear to me on how to do this.  Is there a manual?  If you need one, there’s the first problem. It needs to be easy and straight-forward, right now it is not.   If I haven’t figured this out yet how can I expect my mom to creating multiple lifestream groups in the Facebook system.  One “newsfeed” to rull them all does not work.  Facebook may be the one to crack the code here in lifestreaming but it is beyond what they are doing now and is beyond what Friendfeed was doing too.  There needs to be innovation around easy management of the “different faces of one’s life”.  I will write another post fully on this.  But suffice it to say, the Friendfeed integration could get messy for many.  Time will tell.

So, time will tell on where this heads.  Not only for the integration of Friendfeed and Facebook functionality and follower lists, but also in the entire lifestream space in general.  Time will tell on where this puts Twitter and how quickly they potentially move to Google as Kara Swisher outlined yesterday.  Look out, lots going on and much more to be on the look out for.

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Nano Tweeting, the next little little thing

Many have seen the video already but I think Slate’s video about Flutter is too good not to post. If you haven’t seen it, are a Twitter fan (or not!) and want something to make you smile on a Tuesday, take 3:44 of your life to watch this video.



People simply do not have time any more to read 140 characters. Classic good stuff.

Putting a business hat on for just a moment, I can’t believe Slate didn’t name the parody company on a URL that they own and could market around in some way. Re-direct to a betting site?

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