Facebook has announced significant changes to the newsfeed. This is part of their ongoing battle against spammy applications. As Ari Steinberg has posted on the Facebook developer blog, application must now only post active newsfeed stories. Stories such as “Nick has just been superpoked” will now longer be accepted. Instead, only actions taken by the user can be posted. This is going to have a significant impact on the numerous applications that have been taking advantage of the newsfeed for application promotions.
This hits close to home for me, because a colleague at work had noticed an item in his newsfeed that said something like “Lee Aase has a new top photo.” When he clicked the link, here’s the photo he saw:
My Facebook friend Walter Jennings (an American expatriate in Australia, whom I met through the Arthur W. Page Society meeting in September), had posted this on his FunWall. I had never seen it before. Yet it was published in a feed to many of my friends as my top photo.
I believe Facebook is uniquely positioned to be the all-purpose networking tool for both personal and professional purposes. For that to happen, though, it can’t afford to have applications that publish false newsfeed articles about a person.
I see this as just as big an issue as the Beacon controversy was. In fact, it’s one step worse. At least in the pre-reformed Beacon, updates were being sent to friends based on users’ actions. To send an update to my friends, claiming that this was my new Top Photo even though I had never seen it, is completely unacceptable.
The good news is that with Facebook’s recent newsfeed changes this shouldn’t happen again. Nick asks whether Facebook has “turned the ‘viral dial’ down too much.” I say definitely not. This is a crucial change Facebook needed to make. It’s one thing to pass along my actions virally. It’s quite another to label someone else’s actions as mine.
What do you think?