Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dear Facebook:

I recently got an email from a Facebook member who I must know from somewhere, with a bunch of recommendations from you of other people I might know. I was curious about how you knew so many people I've encountered in my life, particularly since there wasn't much in common between them: some personal and some business, some here and some from my previous home... I wondered how you knew. IP addresses? Mining public data bases?

So I did a quick Google search and found several hundred posts on numerous forums from Facebook members who were wondering the same thing: how do you know? How do you dredge up someone that a person met in a bar ten years ago and offer them as a friend recommendation? Or an ex-husband, or a stalker? How do you offer a forty year old guy as a potential friend for a sixteen year old girl?

But here's the thing, Facebook: I'm not on you. I'm not a Facebook member, and I have no interest in becoming one. So while your own members find this, let's generously call it "prescience", somewhat creepy, getting a bunch of eerily accurate recommendations from you without having first opted in to your social network asylum is almost scary.

Based on my quick search, I suspect that what you're doing is suckering new members into uploading their address books so you can mine them for new customers. So let's say that Jay and Nancy both have my email address. As some point, then, I get an invitation email from you suggesting Jay and Nancy as potential friends. It may not matter to you that Jay is a psychotic sociopath who claims to be "electrosensitive", rants about radiation from cell phone towers, and has my email address because I once attended a community meeting about cell coverage. Or that Nancy is a consulting client who likes to keep her professional and personal relationships as separate as possible, and co-mingling them may put my professional relationship with her at risk. As far as you're concerned, if someone has my email address, that person is likely to be a potential friend.

Facebook, this is one of those cases where you can have too much of a good thing. When your marketing efforts start reaching past the fruitful fields of friendship into the murky swamp of indeterminate and potentially damaging connections, it suggests that your business model has run out of steam, that growth is at an end, that your valuation has probably passed its peak. Probably should have gone public a couple of years ago.

Sincerely yours,