Mark Zuckerberg Open Letter

So, Facebook Responds.

In case you don't have an account, here's what Mark Zuckerberg posted this morning above the News Feed on the Facebook home page:

An Open Letter From Mark Zuckerberg:

We really messed this one up. When we launched News Feed and Mini-Feed we were trying to provide you with a stream of information about your social world. Instead, we did a bad job of explaining what the new features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them. I'd like to try to correct those errors now.

When I made Facebook two years ago my goal was to help people understand what was going on in their world a little better. I wanted to create an environment where people could share whatever information they wanted, but also have control over whom they shared that information with. I think a lot of the success we've seen is because of these basic principles.

We made the site so that all of our members are a part of smaller networks like schools, companies or regions, so you can only see the profiles of people who are in your networks and your friends. We did this to make sure you could share information with the people you care about. This is the same reason we have built extensive privacy settings – to give you even more control over who you share your information with.

Somehow we missed this point with Feed and we didn't build in the proper privacy controls right away. This was a big mistake on our part, and I'm sorry for it. But apologizing isn't enough. I wanted to make sure we did something about it, and quickly. So we have been coding nonstop for two days to get you better privacy controls. This new privacy page will allow you to choose which types of stories go into your Mini-Feed and your friends' News Feeds, and it also lists the type of actions Facebook will never let any other person know about. If you have more comments, please send them over.

This may sound silly, but I want to thank all of you who have written in and created groups and protested. Even though I wish I hadn't made so many of you angry, I am glad we got to hear you. And I am also glad that News Feed highlighted all these groups so people could find them and share their opinions with each other as well.

About a week ago I created a group called Free Flow of Information on the Internet, because that's what I believe in – helping people share information with the people they want to share it with. I'd encourage you to check it out to learn more about what guides those of us who make Facebook. Tomorrow at 4pm est, I will be in that group with a bunch of people from Facebook, and we would love to discuss all of this with you. It would be great to see you there.

Thanks for taking the time to read this,


I appreciate this response, and I think it highlights just how surprised they were with the insane backlash. Checking out the privacy settings, I must say that they're pretty thorough and easy-to-understand. There even an option to block individual users entirely, or show limited profile information to certain people. I'm not sure if they had that before or not, but it's a good idea. And everything else is completely configurable. The only thing I'd still like to see is an option to not see the activity of certain people. Sure, in most cases I should probably not be friends with them, I guess. However, what about a "real" friend who is an excessive facebook user - constantly updating his/her profile, writing notes, joining groups, making friends...I don't necessarily want that cluttering up my News Feed 24/7. I want to be able to say, "Never show me so-and-so's updates" or "Only show me when so-and-so does the following:" for example. Maybe I'll suggest something of the sort. Otherwise, I think Facebook is on the right track, and I hope this'll placate the angry mob.

On a sidenote, it is awesome that Mark appreciates the irony of the much-loathed News Feed letting people know about the existence of the News Feed-hating Groups that their friends were joining. "The News Feed Sucks," everyone seemed to be saying, while at the same time actually using it and finding it informative and convenient. It is clear that the News Feed allowed everyone to mobilize and combine their efforts to make an impact on the Facebook management. I hope the users realize that the News Feed introduces the possibility of a much stronger, more united voice than ever before. The multitude of ways this might be useful in the future, I can't even imagine, but here are a couple possibilities:
  • Mass-information distribution.
  • A user-moderated aggregate of daily news, where the most important stories can be "dugg up" by creating a simple group. Or there might be a way to implement a feature allowing users to flag certain Notes as particularly interesting. "Thirteen of your friends are reading this note about the War in Iraq," for example. Facebook as a mini-digg? Hmm.
  • Politics. The News Feed, along with Facebooks new Election feature might be a way to create a collective message to political candidates and let them know what our generation is thinking.
  • Finding out about the cool parties you weren't invited to, and going anyway.
  • A way to share new and exciting things you find on the Web without making your friends check messages, or view your profile. Post a note about it, and BAM, everybody can see the coolest new thing.
  • Advertising. Hmm. Does any company want to pay me to write notes about their product? If I blog it, it shows up on the News Feed. That means all my 271 friends will see it and check it out and buy it!!
  • Anything else??? Leave a comment with some ideas.
Again, thanks Mark. And thanks to everybody who reads this in their News Feed. I hope your life changes because of it.

I'll probably post again today, as I have a busy weekend ahead, and no work to do at work. Until then, buy this.