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The Facebook Effect Part 11

Joining a protest group on Facebook is unlike standing in a crowd and holding up a sign at a protest. It may be easier to do in terms of convenience, but it is a more public commitment. It's more like signing a petition with our name and address in a way that many others can immediately see. Think of how Oscar Morales hesitated that last night before he took the leap of creating his group against FARC. Facebook for the first time gave him a platform where he felt comfortable taking the leap, whereas in the past in Colombia such expressions had often been considered too risky.

Our act of expression is less fraught when we are passing on an opinion about commercial behavior-telling what we think about a company or product-or when we are merely forwarding something like a news story we've seen and found interesting. Nonetheless, we are making a gesture of friendship and generosity, albeit in a way that Facebook makes routine. And that gesture potentially alters the landscape of business and media by enhancing the relative power of the consumer vis-a-vis the company or large institution. In all these sorts of beneficial expressions, you are rewarded for your contribution, typically by the reciprocal contributions of friends, and often by a sort of chain reaction of contributions by others you don't even know. Facebook is of course not the only service that enables these effects either in business or politics. Twitter, notably, is another. But Facebook is by far the largest tool of its kind.

Will Anderson, a student at the University of Florida, experienced Facebook's power after he became alarmed when he heard in early 2008 about a bill that had been introduced in the state legislature. It would redirect state scholarship money that was going to liberal arts students like him and divert it to those studying math and science. Like Morales, he took a leap. Anderson started a Facebook group called "Protect Your Bright Futures" and invited 200 Facebook friends to join. Within eleven days the group had swollen to 20,000 members. That's when Anderson received a phone call from Jeremy Ring, the state senator who had sponsored the bill. He was withdrawing it. "You can't ignore 20,000 people," "You can't ignore 20,000 people," Ring told the Ring told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

In Egypt, demonstrators in 2009 organized on Facebook to protest a proposed law that would limit bandwidth consumed by Internet users. Shortly afterward, the minister of communications Shortly afterward, the minister of communications significantly amended the plan to address their concerns. In a country like Egypt, where public protest can lead to torture and arrest, such successes are especially striking. In Indonesia, a woman was arrested for the absurd "crime" of criticizing a hospital in a private email to friends. significantly amended the plan to address their concerns. In a country like Egypt, where public protest can lead to torture and arrest, such successes are especially striking. In Indonesia, a woman was arrested for the absurd "crime" of criticizing a hospital in a private email to friends. After tens of thousands joined a Facebook group complaining After tens of thousands joined a Facebook group complaining about this injustice, she was released from prison and the focus of attention shifted to possible malfeasance by prosecutors. These are both countries where in the past, protesting publicly under your real name was risky. about this injustice, she was released from prison and the focus of attention shifted to possible malfeasance by prosecutors. These are both countries where in the past, protesting publicly under your real name was risky.

Facebook has now become one of the first places dissatisfied people worldwide take their gripes, activism, and protests. These campaigns on Facebook work well because its viral communications tools enable large numbers to become aware of an issue and join together quickly. When police conducted drug raids When police conducted drug raids in late 2008 on three nightclubs in Stellenbosch, South Africa, a group on Facebook formed to protest the tactics and gained 3,000 members in thirty-six hours. in late 2008 on three nightclubs in Stellenbosch, South Africa, a group on Facebook formed to protest the tactics and gained 3,000 members in thirty-six hours. Comedian David Letterman made a sexual joke Comedian David Letterman made a sexual joke about Sarah Palin's daughter, and 1,800 joined a Facebook protest page within days. (Letterman later apologized.) about Sarah Palin's daughter, and 1,800 joined a Facebook protest page within days. (Letterman later apologized.) Citizens joined on Facebook to protest a jail expansion Citizens joined on Facebook to protest a jail expansion near San Diego; a new parking lot in Dunedin, New Zealand; a near San Diego; a new parking lot in Dunedin, New Zealand; a campground for gypsies in Bournemouth, England campground for gypsies in Bournemouth, England; a plan by the Philippine House of Representatives plan by the Philippine House of Representatives to amend the country's constitution; and to amend the country's constitution; and the relocation to Bermuda of prisoners the relocation to Bermuda of prisoners from the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay. from the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay.

"I call this digital democracy," says author Jared Cohen. A former student of Bush administration secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, Cohen was hired by Rice to join the State Department's critical Policy Planning staff. "Facebook is one of the most organic tools for democracy promotion the world has ever seen," adds Cohen. When he arrived at the State Department in late 2006 at age twenty-four, he was reluctant even to mention Facebook in meetings. People there had barely heard of it. But Facebook kept growing globally. By late 2008 it was being discussed in the White House Situation Room, where President Bush and his National Security Council staff gathered during crises.

During the waning days of the Bush administration, Cohen, Rice, and other top State Department officials took notice of what had happened in Colombia. Could Facebook, they wondered, enable people to come together and take political action even in the most repressive societies? Could it be an effective tool against terrorism? After all, Morales's Un Millon de Voces Contra Las FARC was an antiterrorist movement.

The State Department started to pay close attention to groups like Young Civilians in Turkey. This irreverent organization, whose cause is tolerance and democracy in a very diverse Muslim country, is made up mostly of students and young adults. Its symbol is a red high-top sneaker, to humorously underscore its distance from the booted military that so dominates Turkish daily life. Facebook has deeply penetrated Turkey's population-most educated young people are users. Young Civilians has 13,000 members on Facebook, which has become a primary communications tool. In a country often torn by ethnic and religious enmity, the group prides itself on including Turks of all ethnic groups and beliefs, including Kurds, Armenians, and other longtime victims of discrimination. Young Civilians uses Facebook to help organize marches where gays march next to covered Muslim women.

In December 2008, Facebook, AT&T, MTV, Google, and Net video company Howcast brought representatives of seventeen Facebook-fueled youth activist groups from around the world, including Young Civilians, to Columbia University for a two-day conference called the Alliance of Youth Movements Summit. The idea was to help protolerance and antiterrorism groups cross-pollinate and return to their countries strengthened by the exchange. Colombia's Oscar Morales came to New York and addressed the groups, as did Bush administration undersecretary of state for public diplomacy James Glassman.

"This is public diplomacy 2.0," Glassman said in a speech. "The new technologies give the U.S. a significant competitive advantage over terrorists. Some time ago I said that Al Qaeda was 'eating our lunch on the Internet.' That is no longer the case. Al Qaeda is stuck in Web 1.0. The Internet is now about interactivity and conversation. Now the Net itself is becoming the locus of Civil Society 2.0. Meanwhile, Al Qaeda keeps its death cult ideology sealed off from discussion and criticism." Then he looked out at the group of young Facebookers from Burma, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, Lebanon, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United States, and the United Kingdom. "You are the best hope for us all," he said. He was applauding what seemed to be a new willingness to take the risk of taking a political stand on Facebook. He talked about it as a change in the balance of global power. Political activism on Facebook illustrates what foreign affairs expert Fareed Zakaria in his book The Post-American World The Post-American World calls "the rise of the rest." Nontraditional forces are gaining influence worldwide, Zakaria explains, including nonstate sources of power like those manifested in Facebook groups. calls "the rise of the rest." Nontraditional forces are gaining influence worldwide, Zakaria explains, including nonstate sources of power like those manifested in Facebook groups.

Until Facebook came along, there was hardly anywhere on the public Internet where you had to operate with your real name. In most cases anonymity remains rampant. That has often had unfortunate consequences. As Glassman said, Al Qaeda and the malefactors of the world want to remain cloaked and to avoid open discussion with their adversaries. And though it's less pernicious, think of the impulsive and often vicious anonymous comments on many blogs, or the irresponsible interactions that so often characterized behavior in AOL chat rooms. On Facebook you must have the courage of your convictions.

If you troll through groups already functioning on Facebook, it isn't hard to find examples of those that are in various ways facilitating cross-cultural understanding. Facebook has already been used, for example, to connect a global group called the Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow-300 young Muslims from seventy-five countries, including a Saudi fashion designer, an Iranian rapper, a Pakistani madrassa reformer, an American blogger, and a Dutch lawyer. They gathered for a global conference devoted to peace and justice in Doha, Qatar, in 2009, and continue to work together as a group on Facebook.

Nonetheless, there are plenty of less friendly groups on Facebook, including those showing sympathy for Al Qaeda. So long as they do not contain explicitly hateful language or advocate illegal acts, they conform to Facebook's terms of service. Positive messages are not assured of dominating on Facebook.

While a willingness to be public about your views may be admirable, some say that it is in fact too easy to join political groups on Facebook. When you can express a view so readily, with one mere click of your mouse, the conviction behind the expression may be proportionately weaker and it's often unclear whether the number of people who join a group or cause means very much. Attempting to answer the question, three University of California at Santa Barbara political scientists published in 2009 a paper they called "Facebook Is...Fostering Political Engagement: A Study of Online Social Networking Groups and Offline Participation." By correlating student membership in Facebook political groups By correlating student membership in Facebook political groups with how involved they became in the real world, they concluded that "membership in online political groups via the Facebook platform encourages offline political participation." with how involved they became in the real world, they concluded that "membership in online political groups via the Facebook platform encourages offline political participation."

Politicians too can benefit from Facebook's gift economy. Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign used Facebook masterfully. Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, who joined the company full time after graduating, later left to take a senior role in the campaign's online strategy team. Obama of course had a large Facebook page, which gathered millions of fans during the campaign. But in addition, local and regional Obama campaigns invited supporters to join their own Facebook groups, which allowed them to mobilize local supporters en masse.

Obama so mastered digital tools that some dubbed 2008 "the Facebook election." Nick Clemons was director of Hillary Clinton's successful primary campaign in New Hampshire and several other states. Because of Facebook, he felt at a disadvantage. "On the Clinton campaign we could definitely feel the difference because Obama was using those tools," he says. "Someone says, 'I'm going to canvass for Barack Obama,' and gets it out to thirty friends on Facebook. And if five people send it out, it multiplies. They recognized this technology earlier than anyone else, and it had a lot to do with them getting the energy and commitment of that generation of people who had not been involved in campaigns previously."

Obama remains the most popular American politician on Facebook, with about seven million supporters of his public profile as of early 2010. ("Favorite music: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Johann Sebastian Bach (cello suites), and The Fugees.") But number two is former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, with more than 1.4 million.

Palin's success demonstrates that Facebook is not the preserve of any one political orientation. She has mastered the art of Facebook politics. After she resigned from her post as governor of Alaska, she began managing her public presence almost exclusively on Facebook. In August 2009 she catalyzed national conservative resistance to President Obama's proposed health-care reforms by asserting in a post on her Facebook page that Obama aimed to create "death panels" to determine who could live or die. When the note stirred up a national controversy Palin did not respond at all until, five days later, she posted yet another Facebook post titled "Concerning the 'Death Panels.'" It got her massive coverage in the traditional media and attracted several hundred thousand new supporters. "Facebook is perfectly suited for someone as polarizing as Sarah Palin," Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for President George W. Bush, told the website Politico. "It's the ideal way for her to keep in touch "It's the ideal way for her to keep in touch, to rev up her base and go around the mainstream media." Another Facebook and Twitter master is Scott Brown, the Republican candidate who came from nowhere to win the special election in January 2010 for Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts senate seat.

Facebook has been embraced by many governments as a tool to communicate more efficiently with citizens and employees, in situations both large and small. After Hurricane Gustav hit Louisiana in early September 2008, Facebook targeted users in the affected region and used a special announcement on the top of its home page to ask them all to update their Facebook status with an indication about their safety. It coordinated this information with state and federal agencies to provide real-time data about human needs in the affected regions. It intends to use similar procedures in future disasters. In a less dire example, after thousands were denied access to Obama's January 2009 inauguration and became stranded in a Washington underground tunnel for hours, some formed a Facebook group called Survivors of the Purple Tunnel of Doom. It quickly gained more than 5,000 members. Shortly thereafter, Terrance William Gainer, the sergeant-at-arms of the U.S. Senate, who was responsible for much of the inauguration security, came onto the group's Facebook page, wrote a lengthy apology, and engaged in dialogue with some who had been trapped.

Facebook communication is becoming routine for agencies at all levels of government. When the New York City Department of Health wanted to promote the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV, it launched a Facebook page and application that allowed users to send one another a little image of a so-called "e-condom." The commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard updates The commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard updates his Facebook status using his cell phone when he travels, and the top U.S. general in Iraq maintains a Facebook page to answer questions about U.S. activities there. The White House streams President Obama's press conferences on Facebook, enabling users to comment in real time with one another next to the event. his Facebook status using his cell phone when he travels, and the top U.S. general in Iraq maintains a Facebook page to answer questions about U.S. activities there. The White House streams President Obama's press conferences on Facebook, enabling users to comment in real time with one another next to the event. Even the Saudi Arabian minister of information Even the Saudi Arabian minister of information has created a profile on Facebook, where he accepts journalists as friends, takes their interview requests, and releases information. Now government leaders in many places are starting to talk about making it possible to renew driver's licenses and interact in other ways with government on Facebook. has created a profile on Facebook, where he accepts journalists as friends, takes their interview requests, and releases information. Now government leaders in many places are starting to talk about making it possible to renew driver's licenses and interact in other ways with government on Facebook.

Facebook is the biggest of a number of websites redefining news into something produced by ordinary individuals and consumed by their friends. I create some news for you, you create some news for me-Zuckerberg's gift economy again.

When Thefacebook first launched at Harvard in 2004, on each person's profile page was a list of all the articles from the archives of the Harvard Crimson Harvard Crimson in which he or she was mentioned. The feature was quickly removed. In a 2009 post for the Nieman Journalism Lab, Zachary Seward, a student at Harvard back then, suggests in which he or she was mentioned. The feature was quickly removed. In a 2009 post for the Nieman Journalism Lab, Zachary Seward, a student at Harvard back then, suggests "Zuckerberg...realized that Facebook wasn't a tool "Zuckerberg...realized that Facebook wasn't a tool for keeping track of news made somewhere else. It was a tool for making news right there, on Facebook." And that is in fact exactly how Zuckerberg has always viewed the News Feed-a real source of relevant news, both about your friends and about the world. Long before Facebook debuted News Feed in 2006, Zuckerberg had meticulously articulated in his diaries exactly how its updates would be real news, going so far as to create a style sheet and grammatical rules for News Feed "stories." for keeping track of news made somewhere else. It was a tool for making news right there, on Facebook." And that is in fact exactly how Zuckerberg has always viewed the News Feed-a real source of relevant news, both about your friends and about the world. Long before Facebook debuted News Feed in 2006, Zuckerberg had meticulously articulated in his diaries exactly how its updates would be real news, going so far as to create a style sheet and grammatical rules for News Feed "stories."

News on the News Feed was far more personal than what any professional media organization had ever attempted to deliver. It was ordinary everyday information about what your friends were doing and what they were interested in. Recall the rationale Zuckerberg gave internally for the News Feed: "A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa." Now your every move on Facebook might become news for your friends.

On campuses, the near-total penetration of Facebook at U.S. high schools and colleges has rendered traditional campus print media-the newspaper and the yearbook-far less urgent. People find out what's going on and who's doing what on Facebook. It's possible that focusing on this diurnal news may make people care less about serious events more distant from them-those people dying in Africa, for instance. It's one of many important Facebook-related social questions that deserve further study.

Sean Parker, who helped Zuckerberg develop his basic views about the service, is passionate about Facebook's importance in altering the landscape of media. In his view, individuals now determine what their friends see as much as the editor at the local newspaper did in simpler times. Facebook permits your friends to, in effect, construct for you a personalized news portal that functions somewhat like the portals of Yahoo or AOL or Microsoft. If I see a friend post a link to something in a field I know they're expert in or passionate about, I am more likely to click it than I am to click something that shows up on my MyYahoo home page. And in the inadvertent spirit of a gift economy, in return I frequently post links to things I find interesting, useful, or amusing. The ever-intellectual self-educated Parker calls it "networks of people acting as a decentralized relevancy filter." A similar but more anonymous form of sharing is facilitated by websites like Digg, Reddit, or Twitter.

If a message is powerful enough it can spread to a vast sea of connected individuals, regardless of who originated it. Chris Cox, Facebook's vice president for product and a close Zuckerberg protege, puts it this way: "We want to give to everyone that same power that mass media has had to beam out a message." The leveling of the playing field is much in evidence. For example, it was via Facebook status updates it was via Facebook status updates that newscasters at CNN first learned of the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, a network executive said that day on the air. that newscasters at CNN first learned of the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, a network executive said that day on the air.

So how do traditional media organizations fit into this new person-centric information architecture? Paradoxically, if they are to most benefit from the Facebook environment they have to learn to function within it as if they were individuals. The playing field has been leveled by the site's neutral way of treating all messages as similar. Any media company, newspaper, or TV station can create its own page on Facebook. But then it faces the same mandate to generate interesting, relevant, and useful messages that an individual does. Activity on a page gets deposited into users' News Feeds-just like the activity on any individual's profile. First you have to get someone to embrace you as your "fan," much like becoming a "friend" of an individual. Then the goal is to get people who see the information you produce to endorse it themselves by clicking Facebook's ubiquitous "like" indicator or by commenting on what you post. That forwards it further to their network of friends and keeps it virally alive. Largely because of the efficiency of this process, Facebook has become one of the top drivers of traffic to major media websites, often behind only Google. Facebook may also challenge conventional media financially over time-by, along with other websites, drawing away the lucrative brand advertising that has been a mainstay of TV, magazines, and newspapers.

Facing these changes, many major media companies are trying to work with Facebook rather than against it. NBC, for example, in summer 2009 previewed an upcoming new series called Community Community exclusively on Facebook. Only those who identified themselves as the show's fans could see the preview episodes. NBC advertised on its own website as well as on Facebook that these previews were available. The service's penetration among the young and media-savvy demographic presumed to be the show's audience meant that the preponderance of potential viewers were already on Facebook. So limiting it to Facebook didn't limit the audience so much as it provided information about exactly who the audience was, since Facebook can provide aggregate demographics of a page's fan base to companies. exclusively on Facebook. Only those who identified themselves as the show's fans could see the preview episodes. NBC advertised on its own website as well as on Facebook that these previews were available. The service's penetration among the young and media-savvy demographic presumed to be the show's audience meant that the preponderance of potential viewers were already on Facebook. So limiting it to Facebook didn't limit the audience so much as it provided information about exactly who the audience was, since Facebook can provide aggregate demographics of a page's fan base to companies.

The line between Facebook and old media is blurring. Verizon has incorporated Facebook along with Twitter and a few other social media websites into its FIOS broadband television rollout. You can log in to Facebook on your TV using your remote, and on a split screen use it to update your status and share information with friends about shows you're watching. Some media companies, like the Huffington Post, have deeply integrated Facebook into their websites so users can use their Facebook identity to share and comment on stories and videos with friends.

The next phase is likely to be a more thorough marriage between Facebook and conventional media, especially television. As the FIOS integration suggests, Facebook gives viewers a platform to in effect watch TV with their friends. There are other ways to do the same thing. Facebook has also made it quite easy for any video broadcast on the Web to be accompanied by live commentary by Facebook users through their status messages, which can be seen on any site's page that chooses to integrate them. One of the first examples of such integration was when CNN enabled users to comment online during the inauguration of President Obama. You could watch the updates of all the other viewers (which reached 8,500 per minute) or just those posted by people on your own friend list. ABC.com did something similar during the 2009 Academy Awards.

A world in which each individual has a clear window into the contributions of everyone else, potlatch-style, does not dovetail well with how most companies are run. While employees of just about every company in America are on Facebook in force, its intersection with the classically structured corporation has been awkward and clumsy so far. Gary Hamel, one of the great theorists of modern management, considers that inevitable. "The social transformation now happening on the Web," he explains, "will totally transform how we think about organizations large and small." Hamel says historically there have been only two basic ways to, as he puts it, "aggregate and amplify human capabilities." They were bureaucracy and markets. "Then in the last ten years we have added a third-networks. That helps us work together on complex tasks, but it also destroys the power of the elite to determine who gets heard."

Few companies have wrestled effectively with this contradiction. Elites-such as the managers of the typical corporation-seldom willingly surrender power and authority. Says author and strategy consultant John Hagel: "Companies are facing the same issues that individuals are facing, which is the degree of transparency and openness that's appropriate," he says. "But in general individuals are moving more rapidly and developing more appropriate social practices than institutions are." This is one of several reasons why many companies now restrict the use of Facebook in the office. The spread of Facebook as a communications medium so far has been too rapid for most managements to have understood what it means.

Some executives, however, have embraced Facebook in the enterprise. When they do they almost universally encounter social dynamics that unsettle the corporate power equilibrium. At Serena Software, a Silicon Valley company that was running out of gas as a provider of software for mainframe computers, new CEO Jeremy Burton turned to Facebook in late 2007 as a tool to shake up a hidebound, old-school corporate culture. Serena even set aside a couple of hours weekly on what it called "Facebook Fridays" for employees to establish Facebook connections with co-workers, suppliers, customers, and anyone else.

Burton became Facebook friends with hundreds of Serena's nine hundred employees. As a result, Burton gained useful insights into how Serena functioned day to day. Employees casually posted details about their jobs and sent him surprisingly candid Facebook messages. "People feel more comfortable telling the CEO things on Facebook than they ever would in person or with email," he says. "They feel it's more informal." But informality comes with other costs. Burton's much younger brother in England sometimes bluntly disagreed with what Burton said on Facebook, in full view of employees and other friends.

Then came 2008's precipitous economic downturn. Serena, like every other company, saw revenue plummet. Burton had to lay off about 10 percent of the company's workers. Accordingly he had to decide whether once an employee was laid off he ought to "unfriend" the person on Facebook. He found the layoff process deeply unsettling, and shared some of his feelings about it on Facebook. A couple of people who were laid off sent him sympathetic notes there, acknowledging the challenges he faced or proclaiming their time at Serena to have been valuable no matter how unhappily it ended. He remained Facebook friends with several people he fired.

At a completely different kind of company, global journalism and financial information powerhouse Thomson Reuters, Editor in Chief David Schlesinger found a similarly informal dynamic. He's a rabid Facebook partisan who checks the service "easily two dozen times a day," and who, as manager of one of the world's biggest news services, concedes, "I actually think the Facebook News Feed is real news. It tells me news I'm interested in." He mostly uses Facebook to connect with colleagues and employees but says the way he relates to people there does not depend on where they work. "There are some journalists six levels below me in the hierarchy with whom I have a very intimate relationship on Facebook," he says. "A junior reporter who is my friend may ask me for advice on a story when they would never dare do it by email or telephone or in person. It's wonderful. I love it. The HR jargon for it would be level-jumping." Schlesinger, like Burton, is a secure manager who wants to empower people in his organization. Executives more eager to exercise power themselves will not find it so comfortable. Most of them-and we all know how many there are-stay off Facebook.

Companies are often eager to get marketers and sales executives onto Facebook as its importance in that world grows. Sony Pictures, an early Facebook advertiser, decreed back in 2006 that executives should have Facebook profiles. At computer-chip maker Intel, the sales and marketing departments conducted a sort of treasure hunt with an iPod as the prize. To participate you had to start with clues at a fictitious Facebook profile. But in order to see that profile you had to create one for yourself.

From early on, companies have been approaching Facebook asking for special features for enterprise use, but Zuckerberg has never been particularly interested. Companies want, for example, to be able to sequester employee conversations so absolutely no outside "friends" could ever see their internal discussions. That remains impossible. Executives at Facebook say such capability will eventually get built, it's just not a high priority now as the company is growing so quickly among consumers. But co-founder Moskovitz feels strongly about building features that help companies collaborate internally in the way that Facebook has made it so easy to "collaborate" with your friends. The presumption at Asana, Moskovitz's San Franciscobased start-up, is that electronically facilitated collaboration will increasingly be built into the fabric of every successful enterprise. At Facebook, Moskovitz consistently advocated giving employees tools that empowered them inside the enterprise, and many of his innovations remain in use there today.

Microsoft, the world's leading business software company and a big Facebook investor and partner, has periodically campaigned to get Facebook to enable a version of its service to work in conjunction with Microsoft Office. That idea has consistently been met with yawns, to the consternation of some at Microsoft. Now Salesforce.com, a smaller but agile competitor of Microsoft, has launched a social network for businesses called Chatter. Companies of many types are beginning to experiment with that and similar products.

Facebook itself is both a beneficiary and a victim of the dynamics of the gift economy its CEO is so partial to. The more users want to contribute, the more activity they generate and the more page views Facebook can use to display advertising. But because Zuckerberg has given Facebook's users such powerful tools to express their views, the company itself has regularly borne the brunt of user dissatisfaction when it took actions people disapproved of. Digital democracy affects life inside Facebook even more than outside it.

Zuckerberg accepts this as inevitable. "We're a vehicle that gives people the power to share information, so we are driving that trend. We also have to live by it," he says. That was tough enough to deal with in the quaint days of the News Feed controversy, when Facebook had fewer than 10 million users. Now, with the burden of more than 400 million empowered and contributing users, Zuckerberg's life is becoming considerably more complicated thanks to the extraordinary tools he has made available to all these people.

16.

The Evolution of Facebook.

"What we're doing now is just the beginning."

On the first workday of 2009, Mark Zuckerberg-he of the rubber sandals, T-shirts, and fleece jackets-arrived at work wearing a conservative tie and a collared white dress shirt. "It's a serious year," he told everyone who asked. He was going to wear a tie all year, he explained, to underscore the issues Facebook faced as growth reached stratospheric levels.

But it wasn't growth per se that made Zuckerberg feel he needed to signal a new seriousness to his peers. It wasn't the need for "monetization," either. Rather, it was the challenges that come with being a rapidly evolving communications platform that has already been embraced by a mass audience.

Zuckerberg still sees Facebook as a work in progress. Toward the end of 2008 I asked him what he considered its biggest challenge. "The biggest thing is going to be leading the user base through the changes that need to continue to happen," he answered without any hesitation. "Whenever we roll out any major product there's some sort of backlash. We need to be sure we can still aggressively build products that are on the edge and manage this big user base. I'd like us to keep pushing the envelope."

Facebook was still less than five years old, but it had already brought its users through a series of major changes. The inclusion of photos, the introduction of the News Feed, and the expansion of Facebook through the applications platform and the translation tools had each, in its own way, fundamentally altered the product and transformed the user experience. Now Zuckerberg and his engineers were planning further dramatic changes. He wouldn't think of abandoning them. It was going to be a serious year.

Even in late 2008, when Zuckerberg confessed these concerns about keeping Facebook moving forward, he had already initiated a series of changes intended to get users exchanging even more information with one another. In September 2008, only two weeks after briefly celebrating 100 million active users, with a toga party, Facebook reorganized profile pages in a way many found jarring. As always it led to loud user protests. Inside the company the initiative was nicknamed "FB 95" in an ironic and admiring wink to Windows 95-the Microsoft operating system that finally and indisputably made Windows a mass-market product and turned Windows-based PCs into a resilient worldwide monopoly. This change to profile pages was supposed to similarly help Facebook blanket the world.

The primary aim of the redesign was to increase the velocity of information flowing between users-or "sharing," in the lexicon of Facebook-and to simplify the site's design to make it easier to digest an ever-increasing volume of information. In the most significant change, two separate components of your profile were combined-the "wall," where friends sent you direct public messages, and the "mini-feed," the personalized News Feed that displayed information about you. Now everything that was about you was in one place. A central aim was to create more launchpads for discussion. At the top of your profile was now a box called the "publisher"-an enhanced version of the old slot where you merely posted status updates. But the box was now for content of all types, everything from quotidian updates of the classic sort-"I'm getting into the shower now"-to photos, videos, and links to articles and sites of interest around the Web. Whereas Facebook's old status update box had prompted you with something like this "David Kirkpatrick is...," now the publisher box included a much more open-ended question: "What's on your mind?"

In order to ease Facebook's increasingly skittish users into the new design, the company gave users a trial version almost two months before requiring them all to shift over. It maintained old and new versions in parallel. As Zuckerberg said, "The technology is the least difficult part." Managing Facebook was becoming an exercise in crowd psychology.

But careful user relations only went so far. Many users hated the redesign. Thousands again joined groups protesting it, though not nearly as many as had protested against News Feed. A few days after the redesign, even computer executive Michael Dell joined a group called Petition Against the "New Facebook." Young people especially were attached to their old wall, which had been in place in one version or another since late 2004.

On the day in July 2008 when Facebook first showcased its redesign, influential tech journalist Michael Arrington wrote a prophetic item on his widely read TechCrunch news site. It was titled "The Friendfeedization of Facebook." FriendFeed was a small website started in October 2007 by several former top Google engineers. As Arrington pointed out, it "expertly combined the idea of an activity stream that was first popularized by Facebook with the microblogging trend introduced by Twitter." Now, with its redesign, Arrington saw Facebook mimicking FriendFeed by taking its own traditional News Feed content and blending it with beefed-up status updates that resembled the so-called tweets on Twitter.

For the first time since it emerged, Facebook was now being forced to react, at least in part, to the innovations of others. And while it may have begun to look a bit like still-tiny FriendFeed, the major new force in the equation was Twitter. Created in 2006, Twitter gives users a forum to post updates of no more than 140 characters. To many, especially people who don't use both, Twitter seems much like Facebook, because both put great emphasis on rapid sharing of information between individuals. But on Twitter people do not become "friends." Instead you can sign up to "follow" anyone's tweets-the name users give its telegraphic updates. Twitterers are not necessarily even people. A large percentage of Twitter accounts use aliases or company names. And unlike those on Facebook, Twitter connections are one-way. Facebook's heritage is as an identity-based platform to communicate with people you know offline, but Twitter is a broadcast platform-a medium perfect for companies, brands, bloggers, celebrities, and anyone who has something they want lots of people to know about.

There are undeniable parallels between the two products. The status update is a central feature of both. Twitter, like Facebook, opened itself up early as a platform for other applications. Indeed, many users tweet and view the tweets of others on independent sites like Tweet-Deck. Twitter one-upped Facebook as well in its blase approach to revenue-in 2009, three years after it was founded, it still had virtually none. Growth was its mantra, and it was getting plenty of it.

Twitter's momentum with users continued to build over the subsequent months. Facebook was now large, established, and from the press's point of view, a bit old hat. Twitter was the next thing. It quickly became the "it" tech company, a status Facebook had occupied for most of 2007 and 2008. Predictions that Twitter would supplant Facebook were rife. Zuckerberg and his team were following Twitter closely. They were extremely focused on the degree to which the enthusiasm of the press and Silicon Valley cognoscenti had migrated to Twitter.

At an onstage interview at the Web 2.0 conference in early November, two months after instituting Facebook's redesign, Zuckerberg said he was "really impressed" by Twitter and called its service "an elegant model." Around that same time Facebook got deep into secret talks to buy Twitter-reportedly for $500 million in stock. The deal didn't happen, among other reasons because Twitter's executives were not confident in the potential value of Facebook's stock.

Facebook made yet another huge transition in late 2008. Zuckerberg aimed to start embedding Facebook into the very fabric of the Internet. In a fundamental change to its platform, the company launched Facebook Connect. The launch was an appeal to developers to start building on top of Facebook in a new way.

Connect makes it possible for any site on the Web to allow you to log in using your Facebook account. That accomplishes several things. It lets you bring your identity with you wherever you go online. Because you can tell Connect to send information back into your Facebook feed, it's a way to project information about the actions you take on those sites back to your Facebook friends just as if they were actions inside Facebook. It also enables Facebook to lend its virality-the way it so efficiently transmits information from one user to many friends-to any website that wants to take advantage of it.

For users, Facebook Connect offers what could turn into a universal Internet log-in. Over 80,000 websites use it Over 80,000 websites use it in some fashion, as of February 2010, and 60 million Facebook members are actively employing it. Connect partners include about half of all the top 100 websites in the world, as measured by the comSource research firm, Facebook executive Ethan Beard told a conference audience. They range from Yahoo, the world's largest content website, to big media sites like CNN, the Huffington Post, Gawker, and TechCrunch, hot start-ups like Fanbase and Foursquare, and devices like the iPhone and the Xbox gaming console. "We aspire to be a technology that people use to connect to things they care about no matter where they are," Beard told the conference. (Remember how proud Zuckerberg was, way back in the fall of 2003, when he said that with CourseMatch "you could link to people through things"?) in some fashion, as of February 2010, and 60 million Facebook members are actively employing it. Connect partners include about half of all the top 100 websites in the world, as measured by the comSource research firm, Facebook executive Ethan Beard told a conference audience. They range from Yahoo, the world's largest content website, to big media sites like CNN, the Huffington Post, Gawker, and TechCrunch, hot start-ups like Fanbase and Foursquare, and devices like the iPhone and the Xbox gaming console. "We aspire to be a technology that people use to connect to things they care about no matter where they are," Beard told the conference. (Remember how proud Zuckerberg was, way back in the fall of 2003, when he said that with CourseMatch "you could link to people through things"?) When readers log in to comment or interact on one of these sites or devices using Facebook Connect they are identified by their Facebook photo and real name. This addresses a huge problem that has afflicted blogs and news sites-the significant percentage of posts by readers that have been extreme, insulting, and anonymous. When discussants log in under their real names with Connect, the dialogue becomes more civilized.

"Facebook Connect is the future of the way that platform is going to work," says Zuckerberg. "I don't think it's going to be these little applications inside Facebook. It will be whole websites that just use people's information from Facebook in order to share more information." Now he says that Facebook's internal platform, which enabled applications to operate inside the bounds of the service, was merely "an important training step."

Despite widespread enthusiasm for the opportunities Connect offers to tap into Facebook's hundreds of millions of users, some potential partners are skeptical. "It's a Trojan horse strategy," says the CEO of one New Yorkbased media company who pays close attention to Facebook but has no intention of deploying Connect. He sees it as a method to get between him and his customers. He predicts that once Facebook makes sites dependent on its log-in and access to users, it will start making demands. For now there is no charge to use Connect, but he expects that to change.

Connect will also most likely become a vehicle for delivering advertising. This possibility has been downplayed by executives thus far. But Dustin Moskovitz, who speaks more freely now that he's left the company, says sites that use Connect will ultimately be able to display ads provided to the site by Facebook. "[They] will know which Facebook user is on their site," he explains, "so [they] can use all of Facebook's ad-targeting information. That's absolutely core to the Connect strategy." Sharing in the revenue that these targeted ads make possible on other sites could become an important business for Facebook.

Another function of Connect is that it will give Facebook even more information about users, including data no longer limited just to what they do on Facebook.com.

In January, around the time Zuckerberg was donning his tie, a potentially serious internal crisis erupted at Facebook. As President-elect Obama was assembling his cabinet and advisers, he hired Lawrence Summers to be the chairman of the National Economic Council at the White House. When Summers had been secretary of the Treasury under Bill Clinton his chief of staff had been Sheryl Sandberg. Summers and Sandberg have remained close, and some senior people at the company worried she might join the new administration and thought it a real possibility. She decided to stay put. She was becoming an essential partner to Zuckerberg.

In February, the year got even more serious. Facebook's legal department posted a few changes to the company's "terms of service," the legalese that is intended mainly to indemnify a company against lawsuits by disgruntled users. This new version of the rules, which every new user must stipulate they have read and agreed to, even though they usually don't, were at first ignored by virtually everyone. But at 6 P.M P.M. on Sunday, February 15, a blog called the Consumerist, published by Consumers Union, took a close look at the changes and published a post titled "Facebook's New Terms of Service: 'We Can Do Anything We Want With Your Content. Forever.'"

The article expressed alarm about the terms and quoted a section about what happens to content you post: "You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to...use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display..." Actually, that terrifying-sounding language was unchanged from the previous version, but in a key change, a subsequent clause had been excised. It said that if you removed your content from Facebook, this license would expire. Removing that clause changed everything, in the opinion of the Consumerist. Its recommendation: "Make sure you never upload anything you don't feel comfortable giving away forever, because it's Facebook's now."

This post was quickly picked up by a number of other blogs and by many in the mainstream press. Suddenly Zuckerberg was under unexpected pressure. How, asked a swelling volume of articles appearing around the world, could he assert he owned the information Facebook's users posted there? He couldn't. And in his opinion, he hadn't. But unlike in some earlier incidents, he was prepared to say so immediately. By 5 P.M P.M. Monday he had posted a lengthy and thoughtful response on the Facebook Blog, titled "On Facebook, People Own and Control Their Information." "In reality, we wouldn't share your information in a way you wouldn't want," Zuckerberg wrote, attempting to reassure users. But then he went on to explain the complicated new legal terrain that a service like his now operated in. Users want to control their own information, but they also want to control and sometimes move information other users have entrusted to them-such as cell-phone numbers, photos, etc.

It was not enough. A twenty-five-year-old user from Los Angeles named Julius Harper quickly created a group called People Against the New Terms of Service, which soon merged with another protest group created by Anne Kathrine Petteroe of Oslo, Norway. By Tuesday the group had 30,000 members. By Wednesday it was 100,000. Again the tools for rapid communication and organization that Facebook gives its users were being deployed against it. Meanwhile, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and twenty-five other consumer protection organizations were preparing to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday.

Zuckerberg quickly surrendered, less than three days after the original article appeared. At 1 A.M A.M. on Wednesday, he announced on the blog that Facebook was temporarily reverting to the old terms of service while it decided what to do next. He had said even in his earlier note that he agreed that much of the language in the terms seemed overly formal and needed to be simplified. In this late-night note, he invited Facebook's users to join a newly formed company group to discuss what the terms ought to say, and promised "users will have a lot of input in crafting these terms."

The following week Zuckerberg announced that Facebook had created two new documents: a set of Facebook Principles to lay out the "guiding framework" for company policies, and a "Statement of Rights and Responsibilities" that would replace the old terms of service. He asked people to comment on both, and announced that users would be invited to vote for or against them before they went into effect. He ended with a kind of rhetoric you seldom hear from CEOs: "History tells us that systems are most fairly governed when there is an open and transparent dialogue between the people who make decisions and those who are affected by them. We believe history will one day show that this principle holds true for companies as well, and we're looking [forward] to moving in this direction with you."

In subsequent weeks Facebook lived up to its pledge. It invited the creators of the original protest group, Harper and Petteroe, to help it evaluate and organize comments about the documents. Zuckerberg announced a vote that would be binding if at least 30 percent of Facebook's users participated. Since, the week before, he had announced that Facebook now topped 200 million active users, that meant 60 million people would have to vote, an unlikely prospect. But he was at least in theory submitting to the will of the people.

In the end only 666,000 votes were cast, with 74 percent of users favoring the revised Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. The Consumerist pronounced itself satisfied. Internet activists were impressed. Jonathan Zittrain, a professor at Harvard Law School Jonathan Zittrain, a professor at Harvard Law School and author of the alarmist book and author of the alarmist book The Future of the Internet-and How to Stop It, The Future of the Internet-and How to Stop It, wrote an admiring article noting that Zuckerberg had encouraged Facebook's users to view themselves as citizens-of Facebook. wrote an admiring article noting that Zuckerberg had encouraged Facebook's users to view themselves as citizens-of Facebook.

Zuckerberg was pleased when I talked to him two weeks after the results were announced. He planned more such votes in the future. "If we do something controversial, what this will really mean is that we're accountable to our users," he told me. "We now need to communicate with them clearly about it. I think that keeps us honest." It was a serious year, but he was displaying a seriousness to match it.

In March 2009, Facebook made yet another dramatic set of changes, this time explicitly aimed at co-opting Twitter. The changes in this redesign were most visible not on your profile, with its "wall," but on the home page where you first land in Facebook and see information about your friends. The top of that page now sported a publisher box just like the one on your profile. The message was getting louder-Share! Beneath this box, the News Feed had morphed into what Facebook now called a "stream," a continuous list of updates and other information from friends. But the stream also included updates from a new source: pages where you had become a "fan." Now becoming the fan of a commercial Facebook page was almost identical to following a person or company on Twitter.

The new streamed News Feed differed from the old one in two fundamental ways. It was updated in real time (like Twitter), and it was not based on an algorithm (neither was Twitter). The old News Feed depended on software that watched your past behavior and attempted to guess what you would be interested in. You could never be sure what would surface. The new stream, by contrast, was what the eggheads at Facebook loved to call "deterministic." You determine exactly what appears there. Facebook added filters on the left side of the home page to help you control what appeared in your stream. You could use them to see videos, or photos, or status updates, for example. You could also put friends and pages into groups to create different personalized views of the stream. Now, for instance, you could see just family members, or people from your high school class, or employees at Facebook, or your best friends.

It was a heady and confusing mix. There remained a small algorithmic section on the home page called Highlights, an unappealing list of small items and tiny photographs on the lower right side of the page. Few people found it very useful. And this time Facebook abandoned the previous redesign's deliberately gentle introduction process. There were no trial periods or parallel versions to ease users into the changes. But it was immediately apparent that many of Facebook's 175 million users did not like the changes.

Nor did the company's increasingly defensive staffers expect them to. As soon as Facebook began to roll out the new design someone created a satirical group entitled I AUTOMATICALLY HATE THE NEW FACEBOOK HOME PAGE. Many of the group's members worked at Facebook. Its description read: "I HATE CHANGE AND EVERYTHING ASSOCIATED WITH IT. I WANT EVERYTHING TO REMAIN STATIC THROUGHOUT MY ENTIRE LIFE." Staffers posted facetious remarks. "BRING FACEBOOK BACK TO ITS FORMER GLORY. HARVARD-ONLY," wrote one. "I will hate this redesign until another iteration, in the event [of] which I will love this redesign and vehemently oppose the successor," wrote another, sarcastically.

Two weeks after the redesign, yet another Twitter-like feature was added-new privacy settings that enabled you to open parts or all of your profile to everyone on Facebook. And in what would be the coup de grace, plans were in the works to enable users to "fan" individuals. Adding such asymmetric connections for individuals would more or less complete Facebook's mimickry and make it possible to function essentially as if you were on Twitter. But while Zuckerberg originally planned to add this feature in June 2009, he still hadn't by February 2010.

By mid-2009, Twitter had 50 million members, and Facebook continued running scared. "Every time I hang out with a Facebook employee, they ask me what I think of Twitter," Moskovitz told me in May. One thing even he worried about was that top engineers were starting to choose to work at Twitter rather than Facebook (or his own new start-up). "At Facebook we feel like if we address this, we can definitely win," he said, "but we would certainly feel like shit if we just like weren't paying attention and Twitter did something we didn't understand and got past us." Facebook board member Marc Andreessen, who is also an investor in Twitter, told me around the same time that the two companies were "elephant bumping." "It's too late for somebody to compete with Facebook on Facebook's turf," he said. "So when the threats come, they will be disruptive in nature, right? Disruptive threats tend to come up from below. They fly up your tailpipe, instead of coming straight at you. So Twitter is the kind of thing that Facebook should be very aware of."

Sean Parker, who tries hard to stay involved in Facebook product decisions from a distance, was a longtime advocate of turning News Feed into a stream that looked more like Twitter. Zuckerberg in fact resisted it for a long time, but the growing competitive pressure from Twitter, along with relentless politicking by Parker and others like Adam D'Angelo, finally convinced him. "Mark always told me he wasn't going to do it," says Parker, "but in classic Mark style he listens and listens and listens and then at some point comes to the conclusion on his own that this is the way it has to go."

Facebook's longtime self-definition as a place to connect with people you know in the real world is becoming slowly but steadily less central. To be a "friend" requires a bidirectional interaction. Both you and your friend must accede to it, as Parker explains. But now there are other sorts of useful relationships in Facebook. Parker predicts Facebook will, over time, formally separate the three components to becoming a friend with someone on Facebook-declaring that you know them, giving them permission to see your own information, and subscribing to see all the information they produce.

Zuckerberg concedes that "the concept of a 'friend' is definitely getting overloaded." He says that word was useful to "get people over a bunch of hurdles." Most importantly it got them used to sharing a lot of information about themselves-after all, only friends would see it. But Facebook has offered only a binary choice for your relationships with others: friend or nonfriend. It will gradually offer more subtle ways to tune interactions with people. Friending will become more nuanced to more accurately reflect the various degrees of connection we have with people. All of us who have agonized over whether to accept a friend request from somebody we barely know will have more options.

But something else is going on as well-over time Facebook will become about much more than friendship. The first indication of that was when it added fan pages and sent page updates into your News Feed alongside updates from individuals. Ethan Beard, a Google veteran who is now marketing boss for Facebook's platform and a key member of Zuckerberg's team, explains: "As we've continued to evolve our thinking we've realized there is more to the graph than just people-the objects, items, organizations, and ideas you are connected with. Anything. By mapping out all these things we can come up with an extremely robust sense of a person's identity." In other words, the fact that you're a fan of U2, a coffee shop in your neighborhood, and Ayn Rand says more about you than the fact that you friended someone you met at a conference last year.

The future of Facebook will involve giving people tools to uncover relationships with other people that are manifested through common interests and behavior. Such a new direction poses the risk that it could make Facebook feel more like a place for marketing and less like a place for friendship.

As Facebook maps out all these additional connections and monitors every user's interactions with them, Zuckerberg predicts users will be sharing an ever-increasing volume of data. "Think of it as just this massive stream of information," he says. "It's almost the stream of all human consciousness and communication, and the products we build are just different views of that. The concept of the social graph has been a very useful construct, but I think increasingly this concept of the social stream-the aggregate stream for everyone-will be as important."

When he thinks about the evolution of this stream, Zuckerberg makes a comparison to Moore's law, the prediction by Intel's Gordon Moore back in the 1960s that the number of transistors that could fit on a computer chip would grow exponentially over time. He thinks there is a similar exponential phenomenon at work in social networking. In a decade, he believes, a thousand times more information about each individual member may flow through Facebook. This hypothesis has corollaries he finds intriguing. Says he: "People are going to have to have a device with them at all times that's [automatically] sharing. You can predict that."

In urging Facebook's users to turn more of their updates and other contributions into public broadcasts, and by attempting also to shuffle in their commercial behavior as well as their interactions with friends, Zuckerberg is gambling that people will over time care progressively less and less about privacy and that they will actually want all the additional information that will be coming their way. It's not just the increased volume of information that's potentially problematic. Will people tolerate so much information about themselves getting loose on the Net? With a considerable portion of the world's population on board, Facebook may become a giant experiment in personal disclosure. Zuckerberg says he remains committed to giving people the privacy controls they want. Whether he can resolve these contradictions as he changes the software beneath more than 400 million users will be fascinating to watch.

In late April 2009, Facebook quietly made a change as radical as any it had ever attempted. With the release of something called the Facebook Open Stream API, the company laid groundwork that could transform the way people use its service. The Stream API is a sort of companion to Facebook Connect. If Connect is a way to extend Facebook's platform across the Web, the Stream API represents a way to distribute the experience of being on Facebook outside the service itself. That may sound odd. Today we mostly take for granted that the way users consume Facebook information is on their home page at Facebook.com.

The Stream API lets any site take that feed and publish it elsewhere-even potentially to alter and add to it in a way that could not happen inside Facebook. It will let other services build sites that look and feel much like Facebook itself, even though the data flows will still be controlled from Facebook's servers. If I want, I could build my own website where any Facebook user could see their entire News Feed. Users can act at these external sites much as they can inside Facebook. Data can flow back into friends' News Feeds, too. The software service called TweetDeck enables this already, among others.

Just two days after the Stream API announcement, I had dinner in New York with Sean Parker, who spent a good portion of our time together that night denouncing it. "It's the greatest strategic gamble the company has ever made and will ever make," he said in his intense rapid cadence. "Opening the stream to the world has the possibility of breaking the company's network effect. As a closed network the switching costs are incredibly high and everybody's forced to play in Facebook's sandbox. But when you open the stream to the world you open the possibility of better Facebook clients that can pro

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