Brad Templeton on Facebook apps that aggressively request access to your private data (relatedly Templeton on the economics of privacy and identity is a must read) and spam your friends:
Apps are not forced to do this. A number of good apps will let people see the data, even put it in feeds, without you having to “install” and thus give up all your privacy to the app. What I wish is that more of us had pushed back against the bad ones. Frankly, even if you don’t care about privacy, this approach results in lots of spam which is trying to get you to install apps. Everybody thinks having an app with lots of users is going to mean bucks down the road, with Facebook valued as highly as it is.
But a lot of it is plain old spam, but we’re tolerating it because it’s on Facebook. (Which itself is no champion. They have an extremely annoying email system which sends you an e-mail saying, “You got a message on facebook, click to read it” rather than just including the text of the message. To counter this, there is an “E-mail me instead” application which tries to make it easier for people to use real E-mail. And I recently saw one friend add the text “Use E-mail not facebook message” in her profile picture.)
The title of this post was my first Facebook status message earlier this year. In other words, social networking sites are all about lowering social boundaries. I am completely comfortable sending messages to people I barely know (if that) on Facebook that I would only consider (and often not) send to close friends and regular correspondents via email or instant messaging.
Ironically social networks could be used to fight spam and otherwise bootstrap reputation systems. I am mildly surprised that although trust is perhaps the most interesting feature of social networks, as far as I know nobody has done anything interesting with them (at least social networking sites) in this respect. An occasional correspondent even suggested recently that reputation is a kind of anti-feature for social networking sites, and reputation features tend to be hidden or turned off.
My other (unoriginal, but older) observation about social networking sites is that while at first blush the sector should be winner-take-all driven by network effects, but instead we’ve already seen a few leaders surpassed, and I highly doubt Facebook will take all. I have two explanations. First, the sites don’t have much power to lock users in, even though it is hard to export data — users have contact information for remotely valuable contacts outside the site, in address books, buddy lists, and email archives, and can recreate their network on a new site relatively easily. Second, social networking sites don’t yet have a killer application. Although Facebook has allowed many third party apps on its platform, I have yet to see one that I would miss, and very few I return to. I doubt I’d miss Facebook (or any other social networking site) much period if I were banned from it (I know that many students would disagree about Facebook and musicians about MySpace).