It's been a long-standing tradition with Mark Zuckerberg and his Facebookanistas to go into "lockdown" when he wants some serious coding to be accomplished. The term is Zuckerberg's way of proclaiming to developers and those outside their hallowed cubicles - "no distractions!"
Of recent date, Michael Arrington referenced this lockdown when Facebook insiders were rumored to have secured Google's plans to develop their own social network - see previous post - "Social Media Lockdown In Advance Of A Facebook-Google Showdown."
Today, TechCrunch reports on the the fruits of their labor now bubbling up as result of that 60-day hiatus. In an attempt to refine Zuckerberg's much contested Open Graph, Facebook has overhauled its "Groups" product, a new data export option and an actual dashboard to help users monitor all the third-party apps they have linked to from Facebook.
Again the timing of all of these new enhancements appear to be a pre-emptive strike against Google and their social strategy involved in developing Google Me. In the graphic novel, "Facebucks & Dumb F*cks," the satire hints at Zuckerberg's dilemma where Google is concerned.
Facebucks & Dumb F*cks graphic novel
What differs with Facebook's new group functionality is the opportunity for users to add anyone to any new or old group they have already created. From Zuckerberg's perspective, "“We wanted to create small social clusters, just like the way they’re created in real life.” That means that you’ll be a member of multiple groups, constituent of hometown buddies, school buddies, and family friends and so on.
Differing from Twitter and LinkedIn, however, you won't be able to "block" someone. Facebook's approach is to notify users as soon as someone becomes part of a group. Other than that, its the user's responsibility to leave the group if you’re not feeling okay with the membership body.
Groups are not new to social networking. Other social networks such as Twitter have experimented with the group feature. LinkedIn has probably designed the best mousetrap here - where business professionals in my opinion are more attuned to engaging with others within a group defined by preference. When a group has the commonality of say "e-Book publishers" or "social media marketers" they are often more inclined to exchange ideas, join in forums and develop meaningful discussions.
In the case of Facebook, when groups are associated as "hometown buddies," initially a lot of interaction might surface, but over time this type of group activity normally wanes because as people grow, their interests change and they no longer can relate to a group they were associated with as a kid. This is often the case with family groups as well.
However what these smaller groups do address is the longstanding privacy issue that has been contested by users. Since any one user can span a broad range of relationships that include relatives and classmates, this small group functionality will allow those users to choose what type of information they will want to share with each group separately.
However on the flipside, Larry Magid, co-director of ConnectSafely.org, a non-profit safety group for children believes that groups like Facebook is proposing can give participants in the group a false sense of security. Mr. Magid said a group member could deliberately or inadvertently allow a stranger into a group, potentially exposing information in the group to an outsider.
However, while Zuckerberg sees "Groups" as a fundamental shift in how people will use Facebook and that the "amount of sharing will go up massively and will be completely additive" - I think what's being launched here is "much to do about nothing." Groups like cliques in high school are just another superficial way to replicate what goes on in the real world.
Facebook's Open GraphTo me what what seems to be the more important feature for us to fully get our heads around is tracking the Open Graph and all those LIKE buttons users are clicking on throughout the Internet. I would like to know a lot more about that Dashboard and how we are able to track and monitor third-party applications that are gaining access to our personal data, and more importantly, how they will be using it.