Mark Zuckerberg, world-renowned creator of facebook.com, has had a really bad week. One could hardly blame the shy, youthful programmer: in the first week of September, he received thousands of complaints in his inbox regarding the two new Earth-shattering features to facebook, News Feed and Mini-Feed. The News Feed feature, one of two new additions implemented into the site in the very early morning hours of Tuesday, Sept. 5, generates a laundry list of recent activity within one’s social network. Essentially, anyone on your friends list can learn from the moment of logging in if you changed your profile, what you changed about your profile, who you added to your friends list, what group you joined, and who was the last person who wrote on your wall. All of this data is compiled into the user’s new information-packed home page, making it very easy for users to catch up with their friends. If that wasn’t enough, facebook stamps the exact minute on any action that appears on the News Feed. The Mini-Feed is similar to the News Feed, but appears on individual profile pages, listing recent actions of that particular user.
What was originally intended to be a new, useful too for Facebook users completely backfired, enraging hundreds of thousands of college students across the nation. Students very quickly formed new Facebook groups to protest the new features, with names ranging from “BIG BROTHER MARK ZUCKERBERG IS WATCHING YOU” to “God Bless Mark Zuckerberg for Making My E-stalking Easier.” Although the News Feed and Mini-Feed do not reveal anything that was not already visible, it eliminates the need to search for updates in profiles by putting it all together into a single document. And although Facebook has received criticism in the past, students say that this time, they have gone too far.
“Honestly, it allows people to stalk,” says Adam Fein, a sophomore majoring in music education. “The moment a hot girl breaks up and puts it on facebook, she is going to be stalked. Secondly, I don’t care if someone joins the ‘Brunettes do it better group. Facebook screwed it up.big time!”
Jen Casanova, a sophomore majoring in psychology, said, “I feel like I don’t have a sense of privacy. Although it is the Internet, I don’t like that people can see who I’ve been messaging.”
Meanwhile, things kept getting worse for Mark Zuckerberg and company. There was even a Facebook protest that was scheduled to take place on Sept. 12; some protestors had even taken it as far as to plan a picket outside of Facebook Headquarters in California in the not-too-distant future.
After about three days, and before any retaliation could ensue, Zuckerbberg issued an apology to Facebook users. “We really messed this one up,” he wrote in a blog dated Sept. 8. While he stated that Facebook did not plan on removing the new features, he was installing new privacy options to allow one to “turn-off” specific information from the News Feed and Mini-Feed. This seems to have appeased most protestors, and some students who were opposed to the idea in the first place are actually coming around, as is evident in such Facebook groups as “Actually, I like the News Feed” and “Against Being Against the Facebook News Feed.”
While all is peaceful now in the digital world of Facebook, and angry students have gone back to sharing as much personal information as possible, Mark Zuckerberg has learned an important lesson: people don’t adjust to change overnight.