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Facebook Aims to Extend Its Reach Across the Web

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Facebook Aims to Extend Its Reach Across the Web

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New York Times,
November 30, 2008
Facebook Aims to Extend Its Reach Across the Web
By
BRAD STONE
Published: November 30, 2008
PALO ALTO, Calif. —
Facebook
, the Internet’s largest social network, wants to let you take your friends with you as you travel
the Web. But having been burned by privacy concerns in the last year, it plans to keep close tabs on those outings.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief, said Facebook Connect users must “understand what’s
going on and have control over it.”
Facebook Connect, as the company’s new feature is called, allows its members to log onto other Web sites using their Facebook
identification and see their friends’ activities on those sites. Like Beacon, the controversial advertising program that Facebook
introduced and then withdrew last year after it raised a hullabaloo over privacy, Connect also gives members the opportunity to
broadcast their actions on those sites to their friends on Facebook.
In the next few weeks, a number of prominent Web sites will weave this service into their pages, including those of the Discovery
Channel and The San Francisco Chronicle, the social news site Digg, the genealogy network Geni and the online video hub Hulu.
Facebook Connect is representative of some surprising new thinking in Silicon Valley. Instead of trying to hoard information about
their users, the Internet giants have all announced plans to share at least some of that data so people do not have to enter the same
identifying information again and again on different sites.
Supporters of this idea say such programs will help with the emergence of a new “social Web,” because chatter among friends will
infiltrate even sites that have been entirely unsociable thus far.
For example, a person might alert his Facebook friends to the fact that he is watching a video on
CBS.com
and invite them to join
him there to watch together and discuss the video as it plays.
“Everyone is looking for ways to make their Web sites more social,” said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer.
“They can build their own social capabilities, but what will be more useful for them is building on top of a social system that
people are already wedded to.”
MySpace
,
Yahoo
and
Google
have all announced similar programs this year, using common standards that will allow other Web
sites to reduce the work needed to embrace each identity system. Facebook, which is using its own data-sharing technology, is
slightly ahead of its rivals.
The effort is particularly important for Facebook, which once represented the seemingly boundless promise of the Web 2.0 boom.
It desperately wants to make certain the other Web companies do not supplant it and become the most popular hub for online
socializing.
Facebook, with 120 million members worldwide, has also been under extra pressure to get its revenue to match its media hype and
membership growth. Responding to reports that Facebook was looking for more capital after raising $235 million last year, Ms.
Sandberg said she would not rule that out. “There is a lot of interest in investing in us and we are always open to the right financing
at the right price,” she said.
The most immediate challenge confronting Facebook is to create an enduring stream of advertising revenue.
A survey last week from the research firm IDC suggested that social networks were a miserable place for advertisers: just 57
percent of all users of social networks clicked on an ad in the last year, and only 11 percent of those clicks led to a purchase, IDC
said. And it turns out that marketers are not so interested in advertising on pages filled with personal trivia and relationship updates.
“What in heaven’s name made you think you could monetize the real estate in which somebody is breaking up with their
girlfriend?” Ted McConnell, a general manager at
Procter & Gamble
, asked last month at an industry conference.