AdAge: Facebook to Open to All

AdAge has the scoop:

The major change was scheduled for today, but has now been postponed until next week while the company struggles to regroup from last week’s member revolt in response to new activity-tracking features.

“We’re holding off on the expanded registration launch, which lets people join regional networks,” a company spokeswoman said. “We learned last week we have to do a better job of keeping our community informed, and help people understand the privacy they have on Facebook.”

This move makes a certain amount of sense as a growth strategy, but it may change the identity of the site. That may be unappealing to many of its users. There were similar concerns when News Corp. bought MySpace, which haven’t materialized.

But given how strongly Facebook users negatively reacted to what were supposed to be user-friendly upgrades, this may be the right move at the wrong time.

According to the article Facebook is bracing for a similar, negative reaction to the “open admissions”:

Facebook members can still restrict their networks by adjusting their privacy settings, but, as the spokeswoman admitted, the change will likely come as a shock to existing members. “Whenever we’ve opened our network, our existing members have reacted negatively, even though they’ve always adjusted,” she said. “We’re sure this will be no different, but we think it’s in the best interest of the community.”

But as the article also points out users will be able to preserve the integrity of their privacy settings and networks. So it may not be a change that affects users in any material way.

More interesting perhaps is that Facebook will now go “head to head” with MySpace. Formerly network access was limited and didn’t allow participation by those without an “.edu” address. That meant any traffic comparisons had to be qualified. Now the marketplace will judge Facebook and MySpace by the same standards. The move ups the risk as well as opportunity for Facebook.

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