Well, that was sudden. This week, Facebook announced more intuitive privacy controls that reminded us, when we shared links and statuses, exactly who would be seeing them. It sounds strangely like Google+. No, I’m sorry, it sounds exactly like Google+.
It turns out that this was what it took for Facebook to listen to us about those privacy settings! We kept threatening to leave, but Facebook knew we had nowhere to go. It is difficult to deliver a convincing ultimatum when you are on the open ocean in the only boat for miles.
Now we can do better. Millions have already signed up for Google+. Maybe we’re not so much moving as doubling down, but whichever it is, it’s made Facebook a bit nervous.
“Wait,” it yells. “Before you go, about those privacy settings you were always muttering about! I’ve got a surprise.”
“So do I!”
“What?” we gasp.
“You see, I’m willing to change,” Facebook says, shuffling its feet and putting its hands in the pocket of its hoodie. “I just want you to be happy.”
Facebook is not used to saying things like this. Facebook is used to saying, in that casual tone your parents use when informing you that your old bedroom is now occupied by the Swami who has vowed to help them explore new marital frontiers, “Oh, hey, by the way, I’ve just redesigned your profile and shared all your personal data!”
“You want to leave? Fine! Go back to MySpace! You’ll come crawling to my feet in a matter of minutes! And I’ll keep your profile here for you just in case.”
So this is a new role. It’s almost disconcerting.
These are the stages when each social network is jockeying to prove it has its rival’s advantages.
“Where are all your friends?” Google+ asks, nervously. “Oh, they’ll be here any minute. Just stick around a bit. I made dip.”
“You want something new and exciting?” Facebook asks. “I could redesign the layout again!”
“Please don’t do that,” we say.
Now it’s offering more logical privacy settings? It’s so — un-Facebook. Facebook privacy protections before were a sort of oxymoron. “Do you want to play Farmville?” it asked. “Well, in order to play Farmville, you have to share every piece of relevant personal data, including but not limited to your name, your father’s name, your mother’s secret spirit name, the swami’s name, the location of all your tax shelters and agree to house Moammar Gaddafi in your basement for an undisclosed length of time.”
It’s a promising change.
Now if only I could remember how to share things with only a few people.