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I just want to say, I enjoy reading your blog posts. They’re very interesting in turn shows your dedication to something which a lot of people hide.

Comment by Brendan — September 16, 2006 @ 9:46 pm | Quote
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This article was posted on Friday, September 8th, 2006 at 5:43 pm. It's filed under Technology, Life, Noteworthy. You can monitor the comments to this article by using the RSS 2.0 feed. It is tagged with the tags crisis, facebook, mini feed, newsfeed, privacy uproar.
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Facebook Reforms News Feed
Posted on Friday, September 8th, 2006 at 5:43 pm.

Due to the overwhelming response to the “stalker-ish” News Feed, a new feature implemented into Facebook, I wrote an email to Facebook.

Look. I like the new Facebook. Newsfeeds are innovative. It shows what you and your friends’ statuses are, and when they change. They deliver news about new groups, friendships, and comments. Essentially subscribe to your friends’ notes. People have the choice to stay out of the newsfeed by deleting entries. Which, in my opinion, keeps the privacy part of Facebook still intact.

I believe that this has gotten out of control. Facebook goes out of their way to be innovative and have this extremely ingenious feature that lets you interact with your friends in ways you did not think possible. In other words, the common Facebook user cannot spot changes of anothers’ profile efficiently. To get changes, they go to everyone’s profile and see if anything changed.

In my view, the Newsfeed changes all of that.

It basically highlights changes to the profile. It’s useful. It’s time-saving. It’s efficient. It’s fun.

And then I see groups with over 200,000 people protesting the new Facebook Newsfeed and Mini-feed.

“So-and-so joined the group WE LIKED FACEBOOK BEFORE IT GOT FUCKED UP. 2:01pm”
“So-and-so joined the group Students against Facebook News Feed (Official Petition to Facebook). 6:13am”

That’s not the kind of response I’d expect. My response was that it was innovative. Others say it’s stalkerish. You can keep a tab on what everyone’s doing. “Person 1 and Person 2 are now friends. 2:21pm” “Person 1 tagged Person 2 in the note Random Note. 9:25am” “Person 1 added new photos. 8:08am”

If you don’t notice the problem, it’s that it’s STALKERISH. One acts like a STALKER knowing what everyone is doing.

Trust me, I’m not a stalker. I believe that Newsfeed is somewhat useful.

Apparently, others don’t.

Take a step back.

The way I see it, you have three options.
1. Give the option to remove oneself from the Newsfeed of one’s friends.
Judging from the group size of some (500 to 300,000 members) this will basically cripple the fundemental use of Newsfeed. If lots of people remove themselves from the Newsfeed, there is basically no use for it, since the scope of aggregation is so narrow.

2. Give the option to remove certain Newsfeed items from the Newsfeed of one’s friends. I.e., options to censor Notes, +Friends, etc., to keep them private.
This option, if one does not use it to block everything, will not cripple the Newsfeed system in a sense. This will work hand-in-hand with the Privacy settings one sets. It will be the same idea, like when you added Notes.

3. Remove Newsfeed altogether.
Of course, this will absolutely kill the Newsfeed, setting Facebook back to when Notes came out. People would like it, right? …right?? I’ve got no statistics on that.

So there are the options I percieve you have. I believe choice two is the best blend between the innovative-ness of the Newsfeed, and the privacy that students require.

Thank you.


Steven Bao
Quivira Media. (Blog)

I recieved:

Hey Steve,

Wow! Thanks for taking your time to write us a detailed response,
we definitely appreciate it. Here’s the thing, the Feeds are not going
any where, frankly we like it a lot and think people will like them
too once they get used to it.

I’m going to send your email to our engineers and let them take a
look at your suggestions.

Thanks again!

The next day, I was seeing that the Facebook News Feed uproar has gotten even more out of control. So I sent them another email.

Facebook, last time I checked the largest group that is against the Facebook Newsfeed is approximately 600,000 people. I highly suggest you start changing something promptly. From this point I don’t think “you’ll get used to it” will have any effect. I believe a change is to be made NOW.

I don’t hate the Newsfeed. I think it is interesting. The problem is, others hate it and think it’s stalkerish, like the USA PATRIOT Act. I believe it is time to roll back the PHP files to just before the Newsfeed was released.

There has been extreme controversy over this topic. I apologize for sending Facebook another email, but this matter should be extremely critical. When 600,000+ people join for one single cause to change something on a website, shit happens. I’m a web developer myself, and I think you guys should be smart enough to respond to this other than a blog post.

I highly appreciate the effort, but this is extremely important. This could be the downfall of this web app, take this with an extremely high mass. This may jeopardize the future of Facebook, so I ask you, reform the Newsfeeds so that users will be happy.

Thank you.

Steven Bao
Quivira Media. (Blog)

They responded:


We understand that some people are unhappy or concerned about the recent changes to Facebook. Mark even responded to some of these criticisms in his most recent blog post (linked to at the bottom of every Facebook page). Your feedback is welcome and appreciated because our goal is to make a website that is in line with our users’ expectations. As we consider future changes and modifications, we will certainly keep everyone’s opinions in mind. We think, however, that once you become familiar with the new layout and features, you will find these changes just as useful as past improvements such as Photos, Groups, and the Wall.

We introduced News Feed and Mini-Feed because we wanted to make it easier than ever before to see interesting, relevant pieces of information from the world around you. News Feed automatically generates the most recent news stories about your friends so that you have a resource available to guide your movement throughout the site. Mini-Feed allows you to quickly and easily see the latest developments in the lives of people whose profiles you choose to visit.

What is important to remember with all of these features is that we are not allowing anyone to see anything that they wouldn’t normally be allowed to see. For example, if you join a secret group, any friends that are not members will not receive a News Feed story about this action. Similarly, when they look at your Mini-Feed, they will not be able to see a story about you joining the group. The settings that are established on the My Privacy page and the settings that apply to Photo albums, Notes, Groups, Events, etc. dictate the stories that are displayed in News Feed and Mini-Feed. Although there is no option to completely turn off Mini-Feed, all users have the option to hide individual stories. If you select the ‘X’ button to the right of any of your own stories, that content will no longer be visible to anyone viewing your Mini-Feed. Facebook prides itself in giving users complete control over the information that they share with others. Let us know if you have any questions about the privacy settings that we offer.

Thanks for using Facebook!

Customer Service Representative

This helped the crisis… by not that much.

So today, I saw the following message on my home page:

An Open Letter from Mark Zuckerberg:

We really messed this one up. When we launched News Feed and Mini-Feed we were trying to provide you with a stream of information about your social world. Instead, we did a bad job of explaining what the new features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them. I’d like to try to correct those errors now.

When I made Facebook two years ago my goal was to help people understand what was going on in their world a little better. I wanted to create an environment where people could share whatever information they wanted, but also have control over whom they shared that information with. I think a lot of the success we’ve seen is because of these basic principles.

We made the site so that all of our members are a part of smaller networks like schools, companies or regions, so you can only see the profiles of people who are in your networks and your friends. We did this to make sure you could share information with the people you care about. This is the same reason we have built extensive privacy settings – to give you even more control over who you share your information with.

Somehow we missed this point with News Feed and Mini-Feed and we didn’t build in the proper privacy controls right away. This was a big mistake on our part, and I’m sorry for it. But apologizing isn’t enough. I wanted to make sure we did something about it, and quickly. So we have been coding nonstop for two days to get you better privacy controls. This new privacy page will allow you to choose which types of stories go into your Mini-Feed and your friends’ News Feeds, and it also lists the type of actions Facebook will never let any other person know about. If you have more comments, please send them over.

This may sound silly, but I want to thank all of you who have written in and created groups and protested. Even though I wish I hadn’t made so many of you angry, I am glad we got to hear you. And I am also glad that News Feed highlighted all these groups so people could find them and share their opinions with each other as well.

About a week ago I created a group called Free Flow of Information on the Internet, because that’s what I believe in – helping people share information with the people they want to share it with. I’d encourage you to check it out to learn more about what guides those of us who make Facebook. Today (Friday, 9/8) at 4pm edt, I will be in that group with a bunch of people from Facebook, and we would love to discuss all of this with you. It would be great to see you there.

Thanks for taking the time to read this,


They reformed them - they now have privacy features. Thanks Facebook.