Facebook's effort has the best chance to succeed if it allows search engines to crawl its content. After yesterday's news, it is clear Facebook isn't opening all user data to search engines just yet. But it seems to be heading in that direction, as Forrester Research analyst Jeremiah Owyang told eWEEK:
"They're trying to make this play toward being more of a public company. They're becoming more public to expand their network and edge into Google's world. The more content they have that is public, the more benefit they will have from advertising. They want to serve their own ads and not go through Google, of course."
Gartner analyst Ray Valdez agreed, adding that Facebook's move was more of a publicity initiative than a privacy play. "They want to increase their footprint across the open Internet rather than being the closed, walled garden. I think they realize there is business value in getting users' content out there. At the same time, they're moving more slowly with this and being more transparent than they have in the past," Valdez said.
Facebook has another reason to be more open. The social network realizes Twitter, through which brief tweets stream in real-time to help users create immediate, if not vague connections, is a force to be reckoned with and is taking steps to keep ahead of the popularity curve.
Another reason for the latest privacy gambit is that it has grown into a full-featured social network, enabling users to share photos, videos, events and other content. Accordingly, users require greater granularity over their privacy than in the past. "They've grown topsy-turvy and it's time to clean house, so it's not just driven by advertising motivation or to compete with Twitter," Valdez said.
At the end of the day, the privacy features may confuse more users than it will help teach them how to control their data within the network.
"The privacy features are a step in the right direction, but we shouldn't expect that most consumers will know what to do or know the impacts or ramifications," Owyang said. "People often vocalize that they're concerned about Internet security, but when it comes down to doing something about it, most people leave themselves exposed. We shouldn't expect anything different in this case."
However, TechCrunch's Jason Kincaid believes Facebook's new tools, particularly the transition options to help users ease into divulging information, will prove disastrous, with people sharing things they perhaps don't want to or shouldn't.
See more about this issue on TechMeme here.