Flixster’s Rotten Tomatoes Movie Site Launches Facebook Instant Personalization Features

Facebook is making a new push for its Instant Personalization program today, adding the first new partner since it launched last April. Flixster’s Rotten Tomatoes movie site is now showing reviews from their Facebook friends, movie and recommendations based on movies they’ve previously Liked, whether from Facebook Pages or clicking the Like button elsewhere on the web.

Facebook’s goal with the product is to make it easier for anyone to have a social experience on the web. It is essentially a more advanced conceptualization of how people already provide data access to third party applications on Facebook and on other platforms, like MySpace and Twitter. The idea is that when you show up to RottenTomatoes.com, your friends are already “there,” in the sense that Rotten Tomatoes is now customizing its user experience by automatically highlighting the content created and actions taken by your Facebook friends when you show up on the site.

But out of all the products that Facebook launched in late April at its developer conference, Instant Personalization unsurprisingly turned out to be the most controversial, because the product automatically shares some user data with third-party sites upon visiting. Between users wanting some of the shared data to be private, and confusion about what exactly was being shared, it became a main target for privacy advocates and users who were concerned about a wide variety of privacy-related issues.

We’ve covered them in detail already – but basically Facebook only shares “public” user data with these third parties, and it is very selective about who gets to be in the program. Facebook started requiring that certain user data – name, profile photo, and list of friends – be public by default as of last December, after previously not requiring users to make that data public if they didn’t want to. That change was based on Facebook’s vision for “making the world more open and connected,” as chief executive Mark Zuckerberg often says. Facebook wants to infuse a social layer across the web and any web-connected device, and it believes some user data must be open to allow it to create the most valuable products.

One question is how many users agree. Another is how well the company can communicate how the program is good for users, and not a big privacy violation. Privacy advocates and some politicians have been looking at closer regulation of how Facebook and other sites operate, and they are no doubt closely watching what Facebook does next with it.

Clearly, with the launch of the Rotten Tomatoes integration today, Facebook is forging ahead. But to improve the experience, and placate critics, it has already made a change to how the program works. It introduced a button in May that lets you turn it off for all sites.

The user experience now available is a new test for how well the program will go over. If you’re logged in to Facebook and you go to Rotten Tomatoes, you’ll instantly be greeted with your Facebook data, live and in action; if you’re logged out of Facebook, you’ll need to click a button to log into it from the Rotten Tomatoes site. And, if you’ve already told Facebook that you don’t want to be part of the program, you won’t see anything about it.

Facebook is taking an additional step, too. Once you’re logged in, you’ll see a link at the top that you can follow to a promotional page to learn more, and you’ll see another link with a button to disable. That may not be opt-in like what some people want Facebook to offer, but it’s one-click opt-out, which is an easier process than the more nuanced interface that Facebook offered when the program launched.

Overall, the program is, as a product, a potentially powerful, simple way for users to get more value out of sites. But do they — and privacy advocates, and politicians — prefer that value to the privacy they do in some form give up? We’ll be covering as Facebook continues to roll it out.

Recommended articles