Facebook (NASDAQ: FB ) has finally gone too far. The company announced Graph Search, a new way to search people by interest, location, and a variety of other features even more easily than you could before.
The test search was enough to send me running for the hills. People who live in my city include people I know, some people with mutual friends, distant strangers, and even my doorman. Do I really want strange people searching my interests, hobbies, city, school, or whatever else is on Facebook? Not me.
Facebook has come under a lot of heat for its privacy policies in the past, most recently for updating a policy that says they can do whatever they like with your photos on Instagram. There will always be a tightrope between privacy and using your information to target ads and other goodies, but Graph Search is just too creepy for me.
I think it will also become too much for the heavy users I see dominating my Facebook feed -- families. People love posting pictures of babies and vacations on Facebook, but who wants to expose a newborn to unknown privacy risks?
This has been building for some time. As Facebook added users and features and became more in-your-face with ads, it became apparent that the fad was slowly passing me by. I was an early adopter of Facebook, someone who thought it was super cool when you had to have a .edu email address just to get into the club. But now Facebook is now hitting the challenges that every social network eventually faces.
The death of the social network
There has been the common path for every social network fad since the Internet began. College kids and teens get a hold of it and make it a phenomenon, parents slowly join, international growth ensues, and finally the early adopters ditch the network in an effort to get away from their parents.
Remember that MySpace was once the best asset in News Corp.'s media stable until it became merely a portal for bands to share their music with the world. Friendster was all the rage for a time, boasting 115 million registered users, but it also died. Google's platform, Google+, was even almost relevant for a minute.
One of the main problems is the need to turn a social network into a money machine. Google has happened upon a gold mine in search, and Facebook looks at the data it holds about people's lives as the next gold mine. The problem is, once you start exploiting that data, people flee because they feel like they're being taken advantage of. In other words -- they're creeped out.
What will survive?
Not all sites that gather social data are going to face the same challenges as Facebook. LinkedIn provides a service that people are willing to pay for, essentially acting as a Facebook for business. But there's something different about voluntarily sharing my resume with the world in the hopes of finding a jobs as opposed to sharing pictures that may show up in unknown locations on Facebook.
Yelp has also created a business where people voluntarily offer up opinions that are meant to be shared with a broad audience. Expanding and growing that network only helps make Yelp more relevant.
Too much Facebook
For me, there's just too much Facebook to handle, and I'm seriously considering dropping the site entirely. As an investor, I think the company's need to generate revenue to justify its $65 billion valuation is forcing the Facebook into new features that will only drive users away. Graph Search is just the latest example.
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