Social networking software

The Real Story Behind Facebook Stories

As I noted earlier this week, Facebook just crested 500 million members, and it's been pulling out all the stops to draw attention to that fact.

Mark Zuckerberg is making the TV rounds, talking to Diane Sawyer on ABC last night. Rumors swirl that a cartoon version of Zuckerberg may even appear on "The Simpsons" (wearing a hoodie, no doubt -- but at least the sweat will be virtual).

[ See also: Should Facebook charge for privacy? ]

The social network is commemorating the milestone by publishing "Facebook Stories," a series of heartfelt vignettes from FB users the world over about how they reconnected with old friends and lovers, reconciled with family members, found their lost cats, etc, via the magic of Facebook -- all told in the length of one status update (420 characters or less).

You can search the Stories page by theme (crime fighting, friendships, parenting, pets, etc) or via a slick Bing map interface that displays the location of each Story author. And, of course, you can add your own. I have to say it's beautifully done. Even I can't find anything cynical to say about it, which should tell you something. As for privacy, well, if you want to share this stuff, it's your choice, right? That's what privacy is all about.

But there are some stories Facebook doesn't want to tell this week. Like whether Mark Zuckerberg really did sign a contract that gives 84 percent of his $25 billion baby to some obscure Web designer named Paul Ceglia. It's clear Zucky signed something back in April 2003; whether that gives Ceglia the rights to most of Facebook seems rather dubious, but you never know what a court will decide. I'm betting Mr. Ceglia is going to walk away with a large check in his pocket when the dust has settled.

There are other stories. For the first time ever, the American Customer Satisfaction Index rated social media sites, and it published the results this week: Of the four sites surveyed, Wikipedia topped the list, garnering a rating of 77 (our of 100). YouTube was next (73), followed by Facebook (64) and MySpace (63). Per the ACSI's survey partner, ForeSee Results:

"Facebook is a phenomenal success, so we were not expecting to see it score so poorly with consumers... At the same time, our research shows that privacy concerns, frequent changes to the website, and commercialization and advertising adversely affect the consumer experience. Compare that to Wikipedia, which is a non-profit that has had the same user interface for years, and it's clear that while innovation is critical, sometimes consumers prefer evolution to revolution."

Yes, people have an irrational love of Wikipedia. But landing just one point above MySpace? That's gonna leave a mark.

And then there's this story: As reported by Inside Facebook (and noted here previously), Facebook is actually losing members in the key 18 to 44 demographic. Yes, the same hoodie-wearing Gen X and Gen Y types who help create Facebook and built it into the juggernaut it is today are leaving the site behind.

Finally, the privacy angle. Per Inside Facebook again, one out of four women are uncomfortable with their privacy on Facebook, while four out of ten are neutral. So only about a third of women on Facebook like its privacy policies. And if hot chicks can't fix Facebook, who can?

What's your Facebook story? Post it below or email me: dan(at)dantynan(dot)com. I may use it in a future blog post (with your permission, of course).

ITworld TY4NS author Dan Tynan can usually be found tending his snark garden at eSarcasm (Geek Humor Gone Wild). Follow him on Twitter, if you dare: @tynan_on_tech.

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