Quit Facebook Day was not just a bust. Some 34,000 of Facebook’s hundreds of millions members agreed to quit, ranking the effort somewhere between the movies “Battlefield Earth” and “The Adventures of Pluto Nash” in the annals of all-time flops.
Quit Facebook Day had no chance, but not because users don’t care about privacy. Frankly, many people did not want to leave Facebook, which has become the most popular social networking site on the Web.
In fact, Facebook is now one of the world’s most popular sites period. In April, the site racked up 570 billion page views according to Google’s new DoubleClick Ad Planner 1000 list, making it the most popular site on the Web.
With that kind of footprint, getting people to leave en masse is a tall order, as Facebook has become a quick and easy way for hundreds of millions of people to share photos and experiences with family and friends.
Yet the controversies of the past several months have exposed privacy and security as Facebook’s soft spot. An online poll by Sophos – which also apparently missed the mark – reported 60 percent of roughly 1,600 respondents said it was either highly likely or possible they would leave Facebook due to privacy concerns.
A recent survey from the Pew Research Center, for example, found 71 percent of social networking users ages 18 to 29 have changed the privacy settings on their profile to limit what they share with others online. By comparison, 55 percent of social site users ages 50 to 64 have changed their privacy settings.
Taken on its face, the survey indicates young adults are well aware of the privacy controls on social networks. One of the main concerns of privacy groups involved in the latest Facebook privacy flap has been the complexity of the site’s controls. Those criticisms prompted Facebook to announce plans to simplify its settings as seen here.
Amidst the recent furor, QuitFacebookDay.com was born. There were also calls for alternatives to Facebook, such as the Diaspora project. Even MySpace took advantage of the fray to announce changes to its privacy controls.
Only time will tell if Facebook – which had some 540 million unique visitors in April – will experience a dramatic shift in the momentum it has built up over the past few years. But if the site plans to forestall any drop-off in popularity, it needs to keep user concerns about privacy at the forefront of its decision-making process.