A Look At Facebook’s Three Instant Personalization Partners: Yelp, Pandora, Docs.com

At the f8 developer conference that Facebook held last week, Mark Zuckerberg announced that, along with launching its new Like button and the Open Graph API, the company would also be working more closely with a select group of outside partners on “instant personalization” integrations that will tie Facebook into the core of their sites.

The announcement led to people worrying about the privacy implications, and most recently some attention from certain US senators.

So, to illustrate how the service works in practice, we’ve put together a review of the instant personalization implementations for Facebook’s first three partner sites: YelpPandora and Microsoft’s Docs.com.

But first, a bit more about what the instant personalization service is.

Facebook shares general information with certain partners of its choosing. This includes “your and your friends’ names, profile pictures, gender, connections, and any content shared using the Everyone privacy setting,” as well as some location data, according to the company’s new privacy policy.

The service requires each partner site to display a prominent blue scroll-down bar allowing users to instantly opt-out. If users don’t choose to opt out, the partner continues to be able to access general information. The exact terms of what sites are able to access is worked out between Facebook and each site, according to the company’s newly-implemented terms of service.

The point of instant personalization is to cut out a step for the user, thereby making the user more likely to use Facebook on the site. If the user is already signed into Facebook, the above sites can call on their profile details through the Facebook cookie in their browser. Other sites, like those that use its social plugins, also require users to be signed in to Facebook. Users can disable instant personalization in their privacy settings on Facebook if they don’t like the experience itself.

People ahve a wide variety of views on what’s acceptable for Facebook to do in this sort of interface. Some would prefer the personalization service be opt-in, for example, not opt-out, as certain US senators said this morning. Here’s our look at each integration. Readers can decide for themselves whether or not the service is invasive.


During his part of the f8 keynote, Mark Zuckerberg used Yelp as his primary example for personalization. It served the purpose well, because Yelp has an obvious real-world relevance with its business and location reviews that Facebook has not totally captured yet (allowing location-based startups like Foursquare and MyTown to step in).

Yelp, in return for the assistance, has made its Facebook integration front-and-center. After you’ve gotten rid of the blue welcome bar at the  top, Yelp retains a small-font line in the same place noting that it’s using Facebook for personalization, with an options button that lets users instantly opt out or get an explanation of what is going on. Beside it is a friend activity button to show recent reviews from Facebook friends. At the bottom, a gray bar pops up showing which friends are already on the site.

Also on the front page, the top of the right side bar displays the names and profile pictures of your friends who are also on Yelp. Interestingly, this sidebar box and the rest of the Facebook apparatus disappeared once I logged in with my Yelp username, even once I’d gone to settings to log back in with my Facebook profile; Yelp appears to be struggling a bit with graceful integration of the two different profiles.

There’s a little more within business reviews. Right beneath the business name is one of Facebook’s “Like” buttons, which can publish back to your feed. And right above the review stream, an option to see Facebook Friends’ reviews has appeared, allowing you to sort the list so that those reviews are at the top. This appears to be happening on its own for the moment, though, and a small box even pops up if a friend has reviewed the business.