It’s clear you are having some PR issues with the changes you’ve made to Facebook.
Folks like Leo Laporte deleted their accounts. Jason Calacanis is making page view budgets because of these problems. Jeff Jarvis is taunting you on Twitter. People are posting your supposedly private texts from when you were a teenager (I don’t even know if those are real, but they are getting reported as if they are).
You can ignore these issues. They will go away, especially next week when Google gets aggressive at its I/O event and releases a ton of stuff that shifts the pundits attention back to Google’s real market power.
The ones you can’t ignore?
The common feeling that we can’t trust Facebook anymore.
See, I don’t have that problem. I never +did+ trust Facebook, especially after your systems deleted my account a couple of years back. I knew then that we were buying into a system that was not trustworthy. Or, at least, not trustworthy in the way we’ve come to trust software and companies in the past.
That said, I still use Facebook. Most of the people I’ve friended over the years are still using it. And I keep putting more data into it. 400+ million people do. And more, I bet, are coming every day.
Here’s what I would do:
1. Split Facebook into two pieces: one private, one public. We already sort of have that. My private Facebook account is at http://facebook.com/robertscoble while my public one is at http://facebook.com/scobleizer
2. Make the private piece much easier to understand and setup. The New York Times actually exposed something gone very wrong at Facebook: you have too many privacy settings and too many choices. Boil them down to a few choices.
3. Put a third party in charge of “verifying” that privacy settings actually work. For instance, I’m pretty sure you are getting bashed for privacy in some areas wrongly. But the market simply doesn’t believe you on privacy, so get someone who can verify for us that when you set something to be seen only by your mom that it, indeed, is only viewable by your mom.
4. Do a better job of explaining why you are putting more and more emphasis on the public part of Facebook. I know that you get a lot of cool new features when you share your life with people, but most people don’t understand that because most people have never lived in public view before. So, SHOW THEM and show them better than you have been to date. For instance, what happens if you click “like” on a restaurant on Yelp? What does that enable? Or, what happens when you listen to music on Pandora and let your friends see that?
5. Use video to explain what Facebook is. Video is harder to read, yes, but it’s more emotional and it’s easier for you to explain and show some of these features. It’s amazing to me that you haven’t been in the public view since you’ve made these announcements. Get onto Techcrunch TV. Have lunch with Kara Swisher and Om Malik Invite me over your house. Demonstrate that you are public yourself and willing to stand up for the changes you’ve made. VentureBeat is giving you some similar advice.
Or, well, you can just ignore them all. I don’t think it will slow down Facebook at all. Most of the people I’ve talked with really don’t care about this issue or have already figured out what they are going to do about it (I handled it by changing all my privacy settings to as public as possible, others by deleting their accounts, yet others, like my wife, carefully went through the privacy settings and changed them to what they wanted).
Anyway, good luck, I’ll be in Omaha interviewing Matt Mullenweg about the future of WordPress at the Big Omaha conference and maybe I’ll ask him what his advice for you is.