An Open Letter To Mark Zuckerberg: “Don’t Do A Mugabe To Facebook”

Dear Zucky,

In recent weeks, the tech news has been awash with so much negative PR of your company due to the recent changes made at Facebook, and some stunts you are pulling. I have not seen a consistent public vilification of a single person since Tiger Woods. Your users are really really pissed with you. The amount of money Diaspora has raised has shown you something, people are prepared to pay to take down Facebook. My man, this is not a good thing. I am writing this letter to you as a fan of the great company Facebook which you have built. My love for and belief in Facebook led be to write an earlier blog post in which I suggested ways Facebook can make money when the world said you guys were struggling to make some dough. This letter is my own effort to prevent you from doing a Mugabe* to your wonderful company with so much potential.

Privacy Changes

viewing the  source of the image below shows clearly the radical privacy evolution Facebook has undergone. There are few things I would like to point out.

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When I joined Facebook in the earlier days (2007), I was required to indicate how I knew the person I was adding. If I was not sure Facebook advised against it. Fast forward to today, I am continuously peddled the profiles of people whom I have no friends in common with on my 1, 953 Facebook friends list.

At your Facebook developer conference years ago, you claimed what kept you up at night was allowing people have the ability to as much privacy as possible while sharing what they wanted to whom they wanted. Fast forward to this year’s f8, where you said while your friends played and thought of being lawyers and doctors when they grew up, what was on your mind was how to make everyone’s information accessible to each other. Now, that is the greatest turn around since GW Bush Sr. said “Read my lips, no new taxes” then of course we all know what happened.

The open graph, the like button, instant personalization and Privacy

In your quest to bring in revenue to justify your 716 million investment and keep Facebook afloat, you have decided to introduce the greatest advertising scheme* since Google, the like button. That move alone has put your competitors on a massive offensive. Your so called making the web ‘social by default’ is just a smokescreen to monitor the browsing habits of your over 400million users.  Don’t you think you should explain this clearly to your users?

* If you are logged into Facebook and you visit this site and any site (CNN, Pandora, Techcrunch porn sites 🙂 ) that has implemented the like button (you do not need to visit the site from Facebook) Facebook knows of this and stores it. Since it has more information about you than yourself, they can deliver a better targeted advertising to you on those websites than Google. If you are an advertiser, who will you advertise with?

Stealing Fan Pages

What’s with the recent decision to seize popular (formally fan) pages and turn them to community pages? It is bad enough you make us pay to send traffic to your site but to go ahead and reward us for making our fan pages a success by seizing them is a very terrible strategy. It is wrong and very improper. If you claim the user should not have created the fan page in the first place, why do you not seize the less successful ones? What happens to the money the person used to promote the fan page all these years?

Facebook is not a charity and is in business to make money.

I fully understand the pressure you have been under to justify the huge investments made into you company. I would also be desperate to make a good return on investment especially having collected 200 million dollars from some Russian dudes. I completely understand all these recent moves are in a quest to squeeze out some juice. But while you go seeking that cash, I would like to point out that you seem to have forgotten some core principles that make great companies great. You have forgotten that with great power comes great responsibility. You cannot justify making changes that would affect 400 million people without regards to what they think or feel. I believe people are not necessarily  upset with the lack of privacy but the inconsistency of the rules of participation on Facebook. You told people it was ok to put pictures of their little sons and daughters an share it with only family members only to let the pictures become public and get them indexed by Google and co.

The most important asset of any company is not their engineers who can always leave but the goodwill and  trust of their customers and people. Zucky, you are recklessly betraying the trusts of your users which I think is very very risky. You should realize you are no longer seen as the teenager that built a popular website but an adult trying to take over the world.

So how then can Facebook make money?

On Facebook, the users are the products while advertisers are the customers.

I completely agree that Facebook has the right to make money but you see, Facebook’s products users are living things and can vote with their mouse.you cannot peddle them to advertisers without regard for what they think or how they feel. The question I will ask is have you tried making your users customers and they refused? Let me once again suggest ways I think Facebook can make money. First of all give your users the choice to become customers, which means providing premium services they would like to pay for.  Some premium services I think might be successful would be

  1. Sell Privacy: Yup. Make Facebook public by default and allow users customers to make any privacy adjustments they want. If it is that important, they will pay for it. The risk is that it might seem like blackmail so you could couple the offering with other premium features.
  2. Unlimited friends: Give customers the option to have unlimited friends.
  3. No Ads: Allow premium customers the ability to block ads.
  4. Priority news feed. Guarantee the delivery of news to premium users’ friends. Majority of users have no idea that many people do not see their stories.
  5. HQ photos: Yes, high quality photos.
  6. A ‘’premium badge’: Human beings are egoistical, people will become premium users just for this.
  7. Fan page owners can actually reply fans. you can make that feature premium only

I am sure you will find millions of people willing to pay $9.99 a year for these features. You currently do not make $9.99 per user so this will be a bad ass return. More so, you would have the conscience to aggressively monetize the users that would rather remain products nor customers.

Like I said in the beginning, I hope you do not do a Mugabe to your company. You are light in our generation and I would really be sat to see that light become and uncontrollable fire that has to be put out. I wish you l the best as you tackle the latest firestorm.

Regards,

Oo Nwoye, (OoTheNigerian)

*Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe and independence hero successfully made his country’s economy the best in Africa, then made it the worst.