You know when you have “made it” when you are front page news – particularly if that front page belongs to the Wall Street Journal. Facebook is the subject of a major article on the front of the Wall Street Journal, arguing that perhaps we can let other social networkers know too much.
The article is based on a new application for Facebook called “Beacon”. This can be linked to various shops and other online facilities. When you buy or download something from those other sites, a news item is added to your profile and distribute to your “friends” telling them about what you have just purchased.
The WSJ argues that this could be taking social networking too far. “Just how much do we want to share on social networks?” asks the article’s headline.
However, what Beacon is doing is very little different to what we do at dinner parties or shopping in the High Street. As you walk down the street after a Saturday morning’s shopping you carry bags telling people who have never met you which shops you have been in. Just by watching people walk past you can see who has been buying books, or CDs or jewellery, by looking at the logos on their shopping bags.
When you get home from your shopping trips and you have friends round for dinner, you may well play that CD you bought, or show them that new dress, or talk about the new gadget you bought the day before. In other words, we constantly “show off” our purchases. Beacon is merely the online equivalent of what High Street shoppers have been doing for decades.