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Communications of the ACM

ACM Opinion

Today Facebook, Tomorrow the World


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With a dizzying array of announcements this week, it seems almost inevitable that the web will become, at least for the near future, an extension of Facebook. Like it or not.

In some ways it’s a great development, making it simpler to connect what you read, watch and listen to. But there’s a nagging suspicion that when Facebook says it’s simply reacting to changing norms about how public we want our lives to be, that it’s actually forging that condition, not reacting to it.

And when I say forging, I intend both meanings of the word.

With a few deft maneuvers, Facebook is aiming to make itself the center of the internet, the central repository and publisher of what users like and do online. Facebook’s new tendrils will likely give what is already the world’s largest social network enough data to compete with Google for billions from advertisers who are hungry to spend their ad dollars on ads they can target specifically.

Facebook’s main lever to get all this data funneled to them is a simple “I Like” button, which websites can embed on their pages with very little effort. When a user clicks on that button, they signal to Facebook to add their vote on their user stream that they are a fan of this NFL player, this romantic comedy or that blog. Websites that embed some smart metadata (geared mostly for Facebook) into their pages let Facebook know what kind of thing a user likes, so Facebook can automatically add it to the relevant section of that person’s profile--with a link back to the original site.

From Wired
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