June 16th, 2007
After writing a long Talmudic discussion (as Jeff Jarvis called it) on whether sponsor posts are a legitimate ad unit, I was surprised to see Facebook, the Internet darling of the moment, had adopted the format:
I suppose if Facebook can get away with inserting an ad into the very personal News Feed, I can get away with inserting one into my RSS feed.
The appearance of this sponsored feed item, perhaps not coincidentally, coincided with the appearance of display ads in my profile, which I had never seen before, although I know that Facebook certainly has advertising. What struck me was the questionable relevance of some of these ads, particularly given that I’m not in high school:
So I thought maybe Facebook doesn’t know enough about me. I checked whether I had entered my birthday, and I had — acne days are far behind me. Then I check out my personal profile information, and remembered why I hadn’t filled any of it out — it’s designed still for a high school or college student:
Activities? Favorite quotes? Facebook may be open to everyone, and “adult” tech/media types may be swarming all over it to try to understand it better, but Facebook has done little that I can see to try to tailor itself to people who have graduated from college. As Dave Winer points out about Facebook:
why is their network so tone-deaf to the lives of adults? Maybe it’s because the kiddies don’t have a clue about business relationships, adult sexual relationships, or family relationships more specific than “In my family?” How long does it take to add some checkboxes to a dialog?
Indeed, the dialogue box that pops up when you confirm a friend doesn’t look like it’s been updated at all since Facebook opened up to non-students:
Despite the hype (which I’ve participated in), Facebook does have quite a ways to go before it can become anything other than a curiosity for the 22+ set — such restrictive categories and fields make Facebook feel like a tool for someone else.
But then, according to Fred Wilson’s ageism theory, since I’m over 30, I’m incapable of realizing just how perfect Facebook really is for me. Yeah, whatever. (By the way, Fred, I challenge you to raise a fund that does nothing but invest in companies run by people 25 and under.)
More interestingly, Facebook is getting compared to the AOL walled garden — not being able to check out the profiles of people I’m not friends with doesn’t feel very open web-like — even LinkedIn is more useful in that regard. I’m an outlier, certainly, but virtually every one of my Facebook friends has a blog, and I still find that old-fashioned social medium is far more useful and substantive way to keep up with them.
But really, what do I know. Maybe my 3-year-old daughter can explain it to me.