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Facebook Likes Vs Google Links Vs Privacy

Contributor:
David Silversmith
David Silversmith

Facebook wants to build a web where the default is social and where every application and product will be designed to use a person's real identity and friends. Bug Google and Privacy advocates are not to happy with Facebook's party plans.

So Why Are Links Important to Google?

Google, as with most search engines, uses hyperlinks as the standard for determining the relevance of websites. The more links to a given page, the more important it becomes. For example, if 100 other sites link to this article, Google will see this article as important and relevant and it will be listed higher in search engine results.  Creating links requires a bit of HTML, but most web software includes a way to quickly add a link.

What are the new Facebook Likes?

Facebook Likes have the potential to dramatically change the face of the web. Using this new platform, websites can include Like buttons on their pages and every Like posts an update to that user's Facebook page.  However, the sharing of that information does not stop with a user's Facebook friends. For example, a Facebook user while on IMDb.com indicates that he likes a certain movie by clicking on the Facebook "Like" or "Recommend" button embedded in the site will create a data record.  This data will be available to advertisers using Facebook and visible to anyone on the social network — even if the Facebook user has a "Friends Only" privacy setting on their account. 

What Happens if Likes replace links?

Facebook terms Likes as a form of "social links" -- claiming that they are better than a link because they can be related to a specific user. If Like buttons take off, that's really bad news for Google, since its counts on links between sites to as a key factor for determining order in their search results. Facebook will now own a huge repository of data on what pages are important and liked - thus challenging Google's data on links.

As Google has risen to become the way to measure all that's worthy on the Web, websites had to change their sites to appease the Google search model.  Search Engine Optimization has become a massive industry with tens of thousands of SEO consultants offering to tweak your website to better fit Google's measure of the Web.  This universe will have to shift to Facebook - figuring out ways to game the Likes.

What about Privacy?

Coming to Google's aide are privacy advocates the world over.  "Now you have to trust not only what an app is now but what it is ever going to be,"said Kurt Opsahl of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. "I can see how it would be advantageous to advertisers," Opsahl said of Facebook's "Open Graph" changes. "It's just unclear how making this information public is advantageous to users."

So what's next with Facebook Likes?

This is not Facebook's first journey down this road.  Launched in 2007, Beacon was a Facebook advertisement system that sent collected data from external sites to Facebook.  Beacon allowed for more targeted advertisements but after two years of criticism and class action lawsuites, Beacon was shut down in late 2009.

Many of the same forces that opposed Beacon are already lining up with facebook Likes in their sites.  With the deep pocket of Google potentially on their side, it looks like there are interesting times ahead on the Internet.

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