Is Facebook Evil?

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By Nick O'Neill Comment

Most successful startups have a similar beginning: a dedicated fan base become avid users and supporters of the product until eventually the product experiences an explosion in growth. Throughout the early stages, the startup can be thought of as a cute and lovable pet. All you want to do is spend time with it and tell your friends about it. Eventually though, all great startups that are able to grow beyond their early years can soon become terrifying beasts. While you may not stop caring for the company, you do eventually become concerned with all the power that it has gained and look back on the good ‘ole days when you were best friends.

So maybe my analogy is a little out of kilter but the fact remains that many companies eventually become terrifying beasts that we grow to fear. Facebook is rapidly becoming one of those companies. Yesterday at the annual Foursquare Conference, Gideon Yu, Facebook’s Chief Financial Officer, was quoted as saying “There are these small bands of people who are trying to take over the world.” He continued, “This is so much more fun than working at a hedge fund or an investment bank.”

This quote has now been used by a number of publications to suggest that Facebook is inherently evil. They may be right. Facebook has now launched a program that is going to force feed me brand information about my friends whether or not I want to hear about it. Surprisingly, none of the new ads have appeared in my feed yet but I’m expecting Social Ads to become more ubiquitous to the average Facebook user over the coming months. Perhaps I’d like to opt-out of these advertisements given that I am already bombarded by a vast number of advertisements everyday.

Eventually all companies grow up though and the focus becomes dollars and cents. While I’m not convinced that Facebook’s new system alone will generate a massive amount of income for them within Facebook given the historically horrendous click-thru rates on ads; when Facebook decides to place their ads throughout the web I think they may revolutionize the advertising industry. In the meantime, Facebook will continue to optimize their ads to make you more likely to respond to them. There’s no opting-out of that.

Do you think this inability to opt-out makes Facebook evil?