The thing about being the current platform of record is that all eyes are on you. So when you do something stupid, like co-opting information from around the web into everyone’s Facebook feed without a user’s explicit permission, you get called on the mat for it. Mark Zuckerberg had it right today in his apology for the Beacon debacle when he said:
Facebook has succeeded so far in part because it gives people control over what and how they share information. This is what makes Facebook a good utility, and in order to be a good feature, Beacon also needs to do the same. People need to be able to explicitly choose what they share, and they need to be able to turn Beacon off completely if they don’t want to use it.
That said, the idea behind Beacon is a step in the right direction. It was the implementation that was wrong. Even the most dedicated Facebook users have lives outside of Facebook. In fact, most of what we do around the web has nothing to do with Facebook (at least it shouldn’t, if you have a life . . . ). The problem is that if I want a centralized place to tell people about what I’m up to and to interact with them about it, I need to spend a bunch of time recreating stuff I’ve done everywhere else around the web back at my platform of choice. It’s not efficient and it’s a pain. In my case, I essentially never do it. It’s that real-world problem that Beacon, despite its flaws, is trying to solve. For that, I say kudos to Facebook.