Facebook’s New Stream: Brook or Torrent?

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s entrepreneurial founder, says the social networking site will be dramatically changing this week. In a unique, even theoretical blog post, Zuckerberg laid out his plans to beef up Facebook’s stream of information. Facebook will more intelligently parse the “social graph” of its users:

In 2007, we popularized the term Social Graph to describe how Facebook maps out people’s connections. The idea is that these connections—whether friendships, affiliations or interests—exist already in the real world, and all we’re trying to do is map them out. We believe that connecting people to their friends is just the beginning, and we’re working hard on making Facebook a place for people to connect with and keep track of all the interests in their lives.

It’s a fascinating idea, if a bit frightening in its futurism. Every individual’s private interests collected in a massive voluntary database. Almost Orwellian, no? Of course, privacy groups have always felt a bit squeamish about the near 200 million-user-strong social networking site.


I don’t completely understand what the new changes are, but it feels like the new reforms are a way of “twitterizing” Facebook. The site’s rich Web 2.0 personalization will now be (hyper-)actively broad cast in a continuous (and interminable) stream of information. Another interesting development is the increased emphasis on integrating institutional “pages”. Major and minor companies, politicians and rock bands will all build profiles that can be integrated into a user’s stream.

Whether this runs the obvious risk of turning Facebook into an flashy Yellow Pages-esque turf war, I’m not sure. At the same time, the idea of integrating Facebook and political participation to a greater degree strikes me as a promising and viable direction to renew our civic institutions. Facebook has long been the repository of everything banal and private in a public forum (red cup parties, vacation photos, cryptic wall posts, etc). The idea of instead making it an electronic agora could herald deep changes in our current understanding of “representative” or “republican” government.

Well, open the floodgates. I’m ready.

(Mark Zuckerberg, Image Credit: AP)

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One Response to “Facebook’s New Stream: Brook or Torrent?”

  1. Neil Says:

    I noticed this post was published a little while back. It’s pretty crazy to read this after the changes have already taken place. If you ask me, Facebook is much improved and they definitely went in the right direction ‘twitterizing’ it.