Facebook & its double standard on sharing

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Mark Zuckerberg announced the Skype-Facebook collaboration yesterday and showed off a great product built by the Skype team. As he talked about the world, he amplified his long held belief that people love to share and sharing on Facebook will only keep growing. He’s held that belief for a long time and talked about it first in 2008. Yesterday, he equated what is being dubbed as Zuckerberg’s Law to Moore’s Law. It makes perfect marketing sense that he would do that.

For me, data is the plastic of the 21st century, something I have said again and again. My belief in the disruptive power of data prompted me to start writing about it long before it became fashionable and we organized a gathering around it as well. I am even working on a book around it. Thus, I was excited to hear Zuckerberg talk at length about data and its capabilities.

Photo courtesy of Inside Facebook

So I set off to write about Facebook and its data-centric approach to the web. To supplement my writing, I asked the Facebook public relations team if they would be kind enough to share a slide with me from Mark’s presentation — the slide you currently see in the post . . . thanks to my friends at Inside Facebook. (I wanted a higher resolution photo than the one pictured versus using a screen grab from the Facebook video livestream).

But the Facebook PR team decided that they didn’t want to share that slide. That answer did catch me by surprise. I mean, I wasn’t asking for a trade secret or an exclusive piece of information. I was asking for a piece of a document that had already been shared publicly. First I was annoyed; Irritated even. But I decided to let it go.

And then I thought about it some more. The answer from Facebook’s press team is reflective of what is Facebook’s corporate DNA of hoarding information. The company’s approach to data is that of a one way street: use any of its products — Facebook Connect, Facebook Comments, Facebook Likes — and you keep sending data into the giant Facebook brain.

When you want to take something out of the Facebook borg — well, that isn’t going to happen. And when you do get access to the data, it is in a limited fashion for a select few companies.

I have been around long enough to know that companies have a way of putting on a happy face. Just as I don’t buy into the “do no evil” nonsense from Google, I have been skeptical of Facebook and its friendliness.

On paper, it is a mere slide from a PowerPoint, but in reality it is the true reflection of a double standard on sharing by Facebook. I think next time Mark or his brilliant CTO Bret Taylor talk about sharing, they should also remember the age old saying — actions speak louder than words.

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