Today, Facebook unveils instant personalization for online television recommendations engine Clicker. When you visit the site while logged in to Facebook, you’ll see suggestions of things to watch based on your Likes and the Likes of friends. The instant personalization pulls relatively benign data, namely your publicly available basic information, as well as your friend list, the interests of friends, and any info you make available to everyone, such as your own interests. All sharing options default to opt-in, preventing surprise wall posts.
The integration successfully removes the obstacle between users and significantly improved recommendations by automatically providing information users probably would have authorized access to anyways.
Facebook has slowed down the roll out of instant personalization which began at f8 but encountered some initial backlash and minor security issues. It’s only offering the integration to “great websites that offer naturally social experiences”, most recently Microsoft’s Bing search engine, Scribd and Flixster’s Rotten Tomatoes film reviews site. At the Bing instant personalization launch, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended the program, explaining that only what you share with everyone is available to partner sites. He asked “Anyone can go to your profile and view your public information, why shouldn’t applications be able to do that to give you an awesome experience?”
Clicker makes a sensible choice for instant personalization, because since it indexes so much content — 1 million TV episodes, 30,000 movies, and 90,000 music videos — information about user preferences is necessary for it to provide accurate recommendations. Clicker was founded in 2009 and has taken $19 million in funding from investors including Jafco Ventures, Benchmark Capital, and Redpoint Ventures. It released social features including asynchronous friend following as well as a mobile app in July.
As with all instant personalization integrations, Clicker displays a notification of its data access near the top of the home page the first few times you visit, offering options to learn more or disable instant personalization. This notification isn’t at the very top , and instead blends into the site’s design, so you could miss it. However, Clicker always shows whether you’re connected through your Facebook account and provides the option to log out in a prominent blue box in the top right corner.
The main area of the home page is filled with video recommendations displaying the pictures of friends who Like that content, or your Likes of similar content. Clicker suggests music videos by artists many of your friends Like, which is an easy way to discover content you might not have explicitly searched for on a TV content site. When I visited Clicker, I saw recommendations of new episodes of my favorite cartoons on Hulu and Amazon VOD, while without instant personalization, I was suggested episodes of reality TV shows which are generally popular but which my friends and I hate.
Within the profile page, you’ll see that your Likes have been imported and mapped to shows, movies, and musicians on Clicker. You’ll have also automatically followed any of your Facebook friends, populating your Recent History feed with their added interests, dislikes, playlist additions, and more which you can comment on or respond to with predefined buttons including “Awesome!”, and “Meh”. This relieves you from having to use the Facebook contact importer to start discussions.
The Sharing tab of the profile settings lets you opt into posting Clicker activity to Facebook and Twitter, while the Privacy tab lets you make your Clicker account private. To disable instant personalization from within Facebook, you have to go to your Privacy Settings and either change what you share with everyone, or go to Applications and Settings and opt out of instant personalization entirely.
Overall, instant personalization works well with Clicker. The experience is much better, privacy implications are low, and the partnership brings exposure to a quality website. While critics will look for something to harp on, when used in a controlled manner with reliable partners, instant personalization helps users by following Facebook’s stated goal — making the default social.