Why Facebook Wants to Open Your Data to the World Wide Web

Facebook's move to simplify and create more granular controls was met with skepticism by industry analysts, who believe the social network wants to get users' profile data on the broader Web to be indexed by search engines from Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. Ideally, Web advertising opportunities would follow, but Facebook isn't going down that road yet.

Facebook July 1 ushered in new rules designed to make user privacy more fine grained and less confusing, but analysts and bloggers see the move as an effort to generate more advertising revenue and fend off feisty Twitter.

The leading social network is collapsing several privacy pages and roughly 40 settings onto one page and plans to standardize the options for each setting so the choices are identical. Users will be able to designate whom they want to see what in their profile and can change those settings for each piece of content they post. To see a full presentation about the changes, see this slide show.

In short, Facebook is offering more control. Facebook in March began offering an "Everyone" option to let users share more broadly if they so chose. Last week, the company triggered its Publisher Privacy Control beta, which lets users decide who can see the content they publish on a post-by-post basis.

"For example, you may want to make some posts available to everyone, while restricting others to your friends and family," Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelly said. "You should be able to make that decision every time you share something on Facebook, and soon you'll be able to do this."

Facebook would prefer users to select the "everyone" option to make their updates and information open to the world wide Web. Why does Facebook want to do this? After all, the social network has thrived by keeping data on its 200 million-plus users safely housed within the network, preventing it from being indexed by search engines from Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.

Facebook Product Manager Leah Pearlman told reporters and bloggers on a conference call that Facebook wants people to share more information publicly because it is hard for people to tell the difference between users with similar names when looking for their friends. ReadWriteWeb's Marshall Kirkpatrick noted that this is not a credible answer.

Instead, industry experts claim that by opening user data to the broader Web, Facebook will kick open the door to greater advertising exposure for its partners, which means more revenues for the company.