Facebook must pass the 'creepy' test while dominating the internet
Published 20/10/2011 | 10:36
FACEBOOK is dominating the internet but it needs to convince users that it isn't 'creepy' if it is to maintain that position.
“There’s good creepy and there’s bad creepy. And today’s creepy is tomorrow’s necessity,” said Sean Parker, an investor in and former president of Facebook, earlier this week.
Speaking at the high profile Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, Parker was asked about Facebook's position as "the company that some people are scared of or feel is a little creepy because it might know too much about you".
The question highlights just how powerful Facebook now is simply because it controls so much personal data. It has more private information about 800 million people around the world than any government, or indeed any other business, could ever dream of capturing.
For a long time Google was the ‘creepy one’. But it only had our search queries –from which it could slowly build a picture of us. With the advent of the social internet, of which Facebook has come to define and essentially control, millions of people have now given their entire identities to one service. But it is changing social norms so fundamentally that it soon might not be viewed as ‘creepy’ at all.
In Silicon Valley the debate is about about how best to harness this immensely valuable data, which people have become used to surrendering.
The Web 2.0 organisers plotted an interactive map of the interent landscape in an effort to visualize the power each major player in the web economy. Facebook is the biggest ‘country’ on the map, ahead of tech titans Google, Microsoft and Apple.
Google may have more than a billion total ‘users’ and Apple more cash than the US government, but it was the amount of engagement Facebook users have, as measured by Nielsen, an independent data company, that made it king.
Moreover, John Battelle, the co-founder of the event, said Facebook deserved its position for forcing Google to create Google+.
“Google has pivoted its entire business to try and capture the social graph. Everyone at that company is focused on building a social presence to rival Facebook,” he told The Telegraph.
So far at the conference the chief executives of Microsoft, eBay, Salesforce and Foursquare, to name just a few, have all talked about working with Facebook and how important that link-up is to their company. It has become for most companies, digital or not, the social fabric of the web, upon which it is essential to have a presence.
Silicon Valley may have stopped focused on privacy for the moment, but the issue in Europe rages on – as many queries about what Facebook is going to do with this huge repository of data remain unanswered. And even Parker, Facebook’s biggest fan, has now said Facebook users need more control of their own data in order to stay interested in the site.
When a technology company is considered ‘creepy’ it usually means it is at scale and pushing big boundaries. The challenge for Facebook will be whether it can properly shed the creepy label and remain at the cutting edge of the web.