RealTime IT News

Facebook Fixes Feed Problem

Social-networking site Facebook has appeased the users who were up in arms over the new syndication features the site debuted this week.

But some are wondering if Facebook's about-face was too late.

Today, the company announced it would add user preferences to the News Feed and Mini-Feed features, which aggregate all the activity of a user's "social network" onto one page.

Facebook said the preferences will offer granular control of the information a user wants in their friends' news feeds

The controversy started when the company added the features to make it easier for users to monitor changes on their friends' profiles. But many users didn't appreciate the effort.

More than 500,000 people joined a group called "Students against Facebook News Feed." And a smaller, but perhaps more rancorous corps, joined "F**k The New Facebook."

The company's changes will allow users to block others from automatically knowing when they remove profile information, post comments on profiles and photos, posts comments on discussion boards, add friends, change their relationship status, or when they leave a group or a network.

Of course, all that information is still available to those who would have seen it in their News Feed. Only now, snooping friends will have to revert to visiting each profile to get their dirt if they so choose.

The reality that the Facebook protest groups were founded on privacy issues that addressed nothing new frustrates Facebook employees.

Expressing this frustration was the gist of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's initial blog in response to the protests.

"Calm down. Breathe. We hear you," Zuckerberg titled the post. The facts were on Zuckerberg's side: Facebook never changed its privacy standards.

But some are saying that his defensive response might have been a crucial misstep for the young company.

"Having your CEO to tell people to "calm down" ain't the way to get people to stop throwing molotov cocktails through your front window," noted technical evangelist Robert Scoble on his blog.

"When the users talk, you should listen. And listening is hard sometimes."

Hard or not, Zuckerberg and his team have a lot riding on solving the problem.

In August, Facebook partnered with Microsoft to use the software giant's new advertising system to monetize its site.

Microsoft boasts the capabilities of its ad platform to take advantage of demographic information.

But if Facebook users feel their privacy is threatened, Microsoft might not get to play with all the demographic data they were expecting.

And Zuckerberg and his crew probably haven't forgotten about the $25 million that venture-capital firm Greylock Partners invested in Facebook earlier this year.