Mark Zuckerberg says that Facebook is about to undergo some big changes. But as you read this, keep track of where the pea is:
Over the last 15 years, Facebook and Instagram have helped people connect with friends, communities, and interests in the digital equivalent of a town square. But people increasingly also want to connect privately in the digital equivalent of the living room….Today we already see that private messaging, ephemeral stories, and small groups are by far the fastest growing areas of online communication.
….Public social networks will continue to be very important in people’s lives — for connecting with everyone you know, discovering new people, ideas and content, and giving people a voice more broadly. People find these valuable every day, and there are still a lot of useful services to build on top of them. But now, with all the ways people also want to interact privately, there’s also an opportunity to build a simpler platform that’s focused on privacy first.
I understand that many people don’t think Facebook can or would even want to build this kind of privacy-focused platform — because frankly we don’t currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services, and we’ve historically focused on tools for more open sharing. But we’ve repeatedly shown that we can evolve to build the services that people really want, including in private messaging and stories.
Media reports are calling this a “radical shift,” but I’m not so sure. Zuckerberg says clearly that Facebook itself isn’t going away and isn’t going to change. He is simply going to build a new platform to go alongside it.
How good will this new platform be? As Zuckerberg says, in the understatement of the year, he doesn’t have a great reputation for ensuring privacy. But maybe he can change. Maybe the new platform will be really great. However, keep this in mind: in order to grow his new platform, he will almost certainly want to link it to current Facebook and Instagram users. After all, would you ignore a captive audience of billions if you were building a new social network? Probably not. Especially if you were the kind of person who says with a straight face about Facebook’s current platform, “We’ve worked hard to build privacy into all our products, including those for public sharing.” Ha ha. That’s a good one, Mark.
If this new platform is connected in even the tiniest way to Facebook, it’s unlikely that it will be truly private. Keep your eyes wide open as this new platform progresses.