Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Facebook in the News and the Comics

Wikipedia cites Carl Jung as introducing the term "synchronicity" to describe "temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events." There is probably no causal connection between Gary Trudeau setting his Doonesbury sites on Facebook and today's Facebook report by Eric Auchard for Reuters. As expected, Trudeau is applying his acid-dipped pen to exploring the consequences of having (and growing) a Facebook presence. Meanwhile, it turns out that Facebook management is concerned with exactly the same issue:

Facebook, the social-network site that has enjoyed explosive growth in new members over the past three months, said it plans to let users tell the rest of the world how to find them on the site.

Starting later on Wednesday, Facebook will begin notifying members they have a choice over whether to keep their listings private or to allow Facebook to make their name and profile picture available when outsiders search the site.

In terms of nuts and bolts, what does this actually mean? According to Auchard, it means the following:

But after notifying users over the next 30 days of its plans to open up basic profile listings of its members, Facebook plans to begin allowing sites like Google, Yahoo or others to "crawl," or index, its public member profiles.

This should cheer up Alex Doonesbury, whose primary concern seems to be that she is "stuck at 2,000 friends;" but it should also bear some monitoring in the real world. At a strictly technical level crawling Facebook data should be no different from crawling blogs, so it will be interesting to see if news reports of consequences are any different.

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