Wolfram's Facebook report and Facebook's future

Go to the Wolfram website and allow it access to your Facebook data and you will be bestowed with a whole wealth of information. (Be warned! It will ask you to create a Wolfram ID.) It analyses not just your data, but information about your friends.

So, for example, I now know my average post length is 7.66 words. Though there are some longer posts in there as well.[^graphs] With Facebook and awesome being some of the more frequent words in my posts. One thing I found perhaps slightly depressing is that of the 2,058 photos I've uploaded, the most commented on photo has received a measly twelve comments, and it's from four years ago.

Not surprisingly most of my friends are male, 71.2% of them to be exact. There's also a pretty even split between how many are single, and how many aren't. I imagine that will change as we all get older. I also have an impressive geographic distribution of where my friends are from. How cosmopolitan we are these days.

This is all data Facebook has. Every status you've ever made. Every photo you've uploaded. Every page you've liked. Every friend you've made. Facebook has all this information themselves. You can be damn sure they know a lot more than they reveal publicly. That girl's photo albums you like to perv through? Yeah, Facebook know as well. And what will they use all this information for? Advertisements. As the saying goes, if you're not paying for something, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold.

Many times Facebook has redesigned its site or added new features which are seemingly not in the users interests. Or how about the Facebook privacy policy or terms of service. Whilst these have been getting better over time due to external pressure, they are weighted heavily in Facebook\’\s favour. Pictures you upload are essentially Facebook\’\s to use as they will, from their terms of service page:

you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

They can do as they please with the picture. Literally, they could \“\sell\”\ it to the New York Times to be used as a cover story picture and you wouldn't receive a cent.

This then becomes interesting when one considers recent Facebook activity especially with regards to the much talked-about IPO and subsequent stock price shenanigans. Business Insider have written a very good article about the matter. What's interesting is a letter written by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook co-founder, to shareholders. Quoting the articles summary here's what Zuck thinks:

  • Facebook\’\s social mission is more important to Mark Zuckerberg than Facebook\’\s business.
  • Facebook\’\s business exists to support Facebook's product development, not the other way around.
  • Facebook\’\s CEO is an extremely patient man who does not flinch under criticism.
  • Facebook will never care as much about clients and shareholders as it does about its service and users.
  • Facebook cares about the long term, not the short term (read: decades, not months).

This contrasts with what was discussed above. First we have this idea that Facebook doesn't care about users, but about advertisers and making money, then we have that actually what Facebook cares about, or more particularly what Zuckerberg cares about, is the users of Facebook. So which is it? Maybe in the long term these two ideas will converge. Facebook ultimately needs its users in order to make money. After all, Facebook is simply a website and could conceivably be killed by The Next Big Thing™.

[^graphs]: This kind of information is displayed in graph form. I can't work out how to embed those graphs here, at least without joining Wolfram Pro.

*[IPO]: Initial Public Offering