Yesterday was not only Memorial Day, but "Quit Facebook Day" as well - at least according to QuitFacebookDay.com and its highly-publicized initiative to get people to band together and leave the popular social network. That day has come and gone, and while it did manage to get 34,424 to quit (allegedly), it has pretty much been deemed a failure. Despite all the hoopla around Facebook quitting and privacy concerns, it appears that people are just not ready to part with their profiles, as they have become too big a part of their lives.
Could you do without Facebook? Would you want to? Comment here.
Privacy concerns have of course ignited this ridiculous amount of Facebook-quitting discussion. In fact, there has been so much discussion around this, we're all probably getting close to our limit. However, there is more to come, because the government isn't through with Facebook, despite CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying they're done making changes for a while.
The FTC has reportedly expressed interest in looking at Facebook more closely, and most recently, the company received a letter from House of Representatives Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers. In that letter, Conyers said:
Specifically, we would appreciate a detailed explanation of the information about Facebook users that your company has provided to third parties without the knowledge of the account holders — particularly in circumstances in which the user did not expressly opt for this type of information sharing. Please explain your prior policies with respect to user consent for information sharing, and with whom any information was shared. Also, please detail how the new policies Facebook is adopting differ from past practices, including whether the burden is on the user to opt in or opt out of the relevant privacy settings.
Facebook's response according to Eric Eldon at InsideFacebook is, "We are continuing to have discussions with all the relevant authorities and we will be answering their questions."
Other groups (as outlined here by Matthew Ingram at GigaOM) have also voiced their concerns.
Last week in a WebProNews article, I voiced my opinion about Facebook privacy, and that is essentially that no matter how many changes are made to the privacy settings, you will never have true privacy with regards to the site, because there is always the possibility that someone can say something about you, or take a picture/video of you and share it with their network of friends, without you being involved whatsoever. With smartphone usage rising, and uploading/status updating becoming near-reflex for some people, you hardly have any control.
(Not) Quitting Facebook
Quitting Facebook is not going to help that. You don't need a Facebook profile for people to put you into the Facebook universe. But other privacy concerns, mainly related to users' personal data, sparked the creation of QuitFacebookDay, the site that rallied a good chunk of users, but not that many when compared to the rest of the user base.
QuitFacebookDay was set up by designer Matthew Milan and web technologist Joseph Dee. "There are alternatives to Facebook," the duo said on the site. "Understanding what is best for you will depend a lot on what you need out of your social graph on a daily basis. For some, a combination of services like email, Twitter and Flickr might work. For others, a Ning group or a specialized social site like Akoha might be an option. If the entire population of Brazil can use Orkut, we think that there's hope for you to find a new home on the web."
They also mention the Diaspora Project, which we've reported on in recent weeks. "At the moment, there aren't a lot of great options for direct replacement, but know that you're not alone. When there's a market need, it's not long before better options appear," the two added. You can read more about their initiative here.
There are some caveats to consider when looking at the success (or lack thereof) of Quit Facebook Day. For one, there have been people quitting for a while and there will be more quitting still. Another is that it was Memorial Day, and a lot of people were probably more interested in spending time with their families, having cookouts, remembering veterans, etc. And of course, not everyone even knew about Quit Facebook Day.
Popular social media blog Mashable polled its users on wither or not they would quit Facebook. The overwhelming majority said no for one of the following reasons: "My mom would kill me," or "Facebook is my life!" (the latter getting most of the votes).
It would be nice to see some numbers about Facebook's growth over the past several months, but we've only seen estimates that it has between 450 and 500 million users at this point. As Facebook becomes integrated with more of the web (expect a significant amount of this, courtesy of an announcement from Demand Media last week), more people are likely to get involved with Facebook. This privacy stuff will blow over eventually, and as non-users continue to see Facebook-related features on their favorite sites, they may give in sooner or later.
There are a growing number of access points to Facebook. Demand Media's example is only one of the most recent. Another example is Facebook's Q&A offering, which is in beta testing. Facebook also launched an Android SDK, which will lead to more Facebook integration with Android Apps, and Android use itself is growing as well (wait until Google TV gets here).
There have been a great deal of opportunities for businesses on Facebook for quite some time, but the amount of opportunities continues to grow right along with Facebook itself. If you have a business, Facebook is one of the most important places to be found online at this point. Digifile calls Facebook "the Information Age's White Pages". Perhaps profiles could be considered as such, but Pages are the yellow pages in that analogy.
As the number of access points grows, as discussed above, so does the amount of ways customers can potentially engage with businesses via Facebook. The Open Graph, APIs, and SDKs, along with increased mobile usage, will fuel a great deal of innovation and integration. Facebook e-commerce will continue to grow as the company pushes its credits system and more retail apps are created.
Could Facebook become MySpace? Sure, it could, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen anytime soon. It's going to take more than privacy concerns. It's going to take another service simply being "cooler". For now, Facebook is still "where it's at," and it will continue to be important for the foreseeable future.
Are you thinking about quitting Facebook, or is all of this Facebook backlash just being blown out of proportion? Tell us what you think.