This week’s post is brought to you by the letter N. Actually it is inspired by “How Your Likes Are Turning Facebook Into the ‘Loyalty Card of the Internet” by Kunur Patel http://bit.ly/c2PkH3 and “Google’s Nightmare: Facebook Like Replaces Links” by Pete Cashmore http://bit.ly/cxfbDP. During this year Facebook launched its web-wide ‘like’ button. Previously this feature was an exclusive Facebook option for users to publicly announce their approval of a friend’s pictures, status updates, etc. This has now expanded to much of the Internet with the launch of a universal ‘like’ button. As with everything it can be viewed one of two ways: good or bad. The good part is that it could help others connect to material they did not know was available. It also could promote increased unity in keeping friends connected through mutual interests, as they can in some cases see things their friends have ‘liked’ online. However (yes, there is always a however), its expansion comes at a cost and may do more harm than good. Mark Zuckerberg and others have pointed out that web pages may soon be personalized according to the ‘likes’ of each user. Basically this means that content will be filtered and everyone will view web pages differently because they will be displayed to them as targeted content. Content that individual user likes will be the focus of what they see. If this became reality it may be good, and sometimes lead to increased traffic and suggestions of other things they may also like, or it may backfire.
1) It may inhibit instead of increase connections. If content is filtered then it makes it hard for users to explore and discover new things they like. How can you know if you like something when you never interact with it on some level? The Internet cannot always predict new things that a user may become interested in and will find it hard to keep up if this is the case. Also, when you send links to friends how will they be able to view them if is not related to their ‘likes’ and does not appear because of content filtering? The public needs to be able to explore the full range of content out there. It is better for individuals and better for business.
2) Google is powered through links between pages. With links on the rise between ‘likes’ and pages, how will Google keep up?
3) Things are beginning to be ranked by ‘likes’ and this could also inhibit a user’s ability to explore and discover new ‘likes’ on the Internet.
4) There is a point where things are over-personalized and that is when users tend to revolt by withdrawing. It can be viewed as an intrusion on privacy.
I am not saying expanding Facebook ‘likes’ is bad for business, my concern is with the personalization of the web that may arise as a result. The trick is to incorporate this concept of user personalization in a way that does not inhibit, but increases connections between users and between users and brands or products. I do not know that personalizing a person’s view of the web is the best way or necessary to do that. There are ways to drive more traffic and be more relevant without going to such extremes and it is a better use of time to focus on that.