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Facebook’s new face

Steve Henn Sep 22, 2011

Facebook wants to spend more time with you. Deepen the conversation, peer into your soul, hear the story of your life. It wants you to break out of your shell and share more of yourself. After all you’ve been in this relationship for a while.

That’s what the company’s big event today in San Francisco was all about.
And while you are talking and sharing and reading and watching movies together, Facebook will be building a digital archive – of everything you touch. But don’t worry you’ll like it. Really.

F8, Facebook’s annual developer’s conference, was filled with moments that were both creepy and cool. To start with, my press pass was a personalized 20-page booklet with my name on the outside. At first, it seemed like nothing special. I walked around with this hanging from my neck for hours, before I noticed that inside the little booklet were with 50 or 60 pictures of my Facebook friends.

         A former colleague of mine at Northwestern's Medill  School of Journalism, was there. My best friend since 5th grade was there.  Each of the 1700 attendees at F8 were given personalized passes that laid out their own social graphs in photo mosaics. And they were beautiful.  Everyone knows Facebook is in the business of collecting information. But it's easy to forget. 

Seeing these little books, though, drives home the fact that this company, this one company, has collected that kind of detailed information about more than 800 hundred million people.

If Facebook’s business plan is to collect as much information about you and your friends as it can and transform all that data into cash by selling ads and digital media – it’s just getting started.

Today, the company introduced a series of new features and apps that will create new ways to consume and share media, and encourage all of us to post even more minutia about ourselves.

What struck me about all these new tools is that they were cleverly designed one-way ratchets, built to increase the amount of information that Facebook collects about you.

So new apps, which ask if you would like to share your music or reading habits – will ask you that only once. If you say yes, you will be sharing them from then on.

Mark Zuckerberg was careful to point out that you shouldn’t worry about annoying your friends with a bunch of tedious posts about what you’re reading and listening to. Facebook solved that problem by building a ticker on the side of the page. That’s where all this trivial stuff will go. And it will fly by so fast no one will notice.

But if Facebook notices patterns in what you are doing. say you are posting your runs or you and three friends all watched the same documentary, it will highlight that for your friends. Facebook’s algorithms create posts on their own.

Facebook made changes to the site earlier this week, that have already annoyed millions of users. Some, like the introduction of Timeline, which is designed to help everyone tell the story of their lives may enthrall millions more. But all of them, are designed to make it easier and more appealing for you and everyone else to share more detailed information about your life with this very big company.

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