Yesterday Facebook launched an update to its profiles making it easier to have a quick view of a person’s whole life rather than just focusing on the most recent updates.

The new features allow users to list their spoken languages, work experiences, classes taken and projects accomplished. Also, it’s now easier to list our passions, the sports we play and with who we play; It also allows users to select friends as family members, not just spouses but even grandchildren and grandparents (!)

In short, not only a big part of our life can now be on Facebook, it can be tagged and made search engine friendly too.

The first application that comes to mind is the potential use of Facebook for recruitment in place of Linkedin.

Secondly, if the family features will be widely adopted (and expanded) Facebook might become a preferred destination for genealogical studies. With its impressive user base it could sweep away services like Ancestry and Myheritage. It does sound a bit like 1984 but it is quite exciting as well.

Facebook and change-adverse users

Speaking of Facebook I think we can agree on one fact: whenever they change anything we can see a lot of negative reactions (just have a look at the comments around the web) but I doubt this is due to the actual quality of the development.

In the digital world we like to think of ourselves as modern, fast changing people but human nature doesn’t change just because we are online. People like to have reference points. Even though the Internet as a whole changes continually, there are some cardinal sites that change very slowly. Think of Google’s homepage, the Wikipedia layout or your webmail’s interface.
The more important a service is, the slower it changes. There is no doubt that Facebook is in the top three of the most important services on the web. Any change from such services feels like a loss of grip and potentially a betrayal to its loyal users, regardless of the quality of the changes.

The eternal dispute over privacy

Whenever Facebook changes something, we see a lot of people who “don’t like the new interface” and one of the most common reasons has to do with privacy issues and the perceived loss of control over personal data.

Now for some users, Facebook seem to be a place to promote themselves to the highest possible number of people, for some others it’s a place to find new friends while for somebody else might be a way to keep contact with family and close friends. You can easily see how just these three profiles will have radically different needs and views on privacy but again, it’s the user who feeds Facebook with information so first of all we should ask ourselves:

  • What do I want from Facebook?
  • How do I choose my “friends”?

While most web services have a clear positioning in terms of privacy and publicity, Facebook could be placed anywhere in this matrix according to each user’s idea of what Facebook is.

While its increased versatility could make Facebook THE tool to manage our online identity, the massive amount of data it handles and the complexity of human relationships are calling for enhanced controls. We have already seen some interesting concepts, now it’s the time to implement them.

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