Going by The Hindu’s op-ed report (a New York Times news extract), Facebook seems to have been caught in the wrong foot with its new hyper-targeting ad system called Facebook Beacon. A Beacon is nothing but a mini-feed which lets you see your friend’s online buying activities.
Let me give u an example: lets say you buy a book from a particular book shop owner, who happens to be an advertiser teamed up with facebook. Facebook watches your action and puts it up in your news feed section announcing to your friends that you have bought an “x” book from “abc” bookshop owner. It is like you are endorsing this advertiser when you are buying this “x” book from him and giving an assurance to your friends saying that you can trust the advertisers to buy books from him in the future. This is an extension of user generated advertisement and believe me, this is a quiet a powerful way to advertise and reach your customers.
This concept is called online tracking & advertising, a popular method wherein the service providers keeps track of where users are going, and send ads according to their interests , thereby making it more relevant and interactive . Companies like Microsoft, Myspace or Google do it all the time; the only thing is we don’t notice it at all.
What facebook is trying to do is, instead of tracking user’s actions and sending ads behind the scenes like the other companies do, they are being more transparent about it and sending it as mini-feeds.
But the problem brewed up, when around 50,000 registered members dint like it when facebook started telling their friends what they are buying and from whom they are buying it. This they considered as a breach of their privacy. So when Moveon.org took up this issue, these 50,000 users went ahead and singed up to show their dissent.
For Mark Zuckerberg (23), Beacon is going to be an interesting and important issue to deal with. Facebook was started, during his Harvard University days studying for his under graduation degree, to help students inside the campus (with a valid university mail id) to stay in touch with each other. Today, facebook has grown into a 35 million strong community and surely becoming a fierce rival for MySapce which has over 50 million users, not to mention Bebo.
Beacon will be used to turn this service into a profit making machine and testimonial to this is the fact that Microsoft recently took up a stake by paying 240 million dollar , which means Facebook is valued at 15 billion $ .But i personally think the whole release process and the way it was released was wrong from a “product release” point of view.
As a rookie product manager for mklix.com, I would be keeping an eye on what Mark is going to do next(or what he says) and how he is plans to execute the Beacon program. I will let you know some of the product management aspects on this issue in my next post.
See you soon…