What the new Facebook features mean to us users

By Anne Collier

Remember how the word “friends” took on new meaning with the advent of social networking? Well, the same thing might be happening to the word “like.” You always liked stuff, but now you “Like” it, as in broadcast that you like it, to the world via Facebook – or just to your Facebook friends, depending on how you’ve set your privacy settings. FB users, right after logging in today, click on “Learn More” in the box FB has at the top of your page explaining all this (its headline is “Connect with your friends on your favorite websites”). I’m talking about the just-announced latest changes at Facebook, the Like button you’ll be seeing in more and more sites and blogs around the Web and “instant personalization,” which personalizes your experience of Web services like Yelp, based on the info you’ve shared about yourself in FB.

Some pundits have actually called these developments “Web 3.0.” The BBC’s headline was “Facebook’s bid to rule the web as it goes social” – or, if not to rule, at least make it much more social than ever, or make the whole Web a more socially informed experience. And then maybe, as the BBC put it, “unseat Google” (and all FB’s other competitors) to boot. For more on what it means to us mere mortals, check out GigaOm’s “Your Mom’s Guide to Those Facebook Changes, and How to Block Them,” then talk with your kids about checking those privacy settings again – make sure the settings are just the way everybody wants them under these new conditions. ReadWriteWeb.com goes into great detail about how Facebook’s latest moves, announced at the F8 developers conference last week , affects its competitors and Web publishers as well as users. Remember that word “Like” I mentioned above? Well, ReadWriteWeb already replaced “click” with “like,” where it says that Facebook’s intent is “to get users to Like on the site and post a link to Facebook.” [See also the Oregon Daily Emerald (at the University of Oregon) on how Facebook “surpassed Google in hits in the U.S. in one week during March of this year, the first time Google has been out of the top spot since it surpassed MySpace in 2007,” and the New York Times on new apps and services illustrating the trend that sharing personal details is the whole point.]

Added later: The Electronic Frontier Foundation has just posted instructions on how FB users can opt out of “instant personalization” in the Web services with which Facebook has struck deals so far: Microsoft Docs, Yelp, and Pandora.

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