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I had a fantastic idea for a post that was clever and humorous and would get all sorts of comments, but my digital camera is broken in at least three ways and the whole thing really depended on this particular photo, so that idea’s dead.

And then I was going to write about chocolate bars, but I’ve been meaning to do that for at least a year so I might as well put it off a few more days.

I’ve noticed lately something interesting on facebook, and I’m going to try to turn it into an insightful blog entry. No promises, though.

Some time ago there was a little controversy about facebook privacy, in that there was an often overlooked thing that said all your information could be made available to third part applications. What exactly these were nobody knew. For a while this was enabled by default, though that changed after a fashion, likely due to complaints.

Now, these “applications” have been enabled on facebook, and people have been jumping all over them. Third parties can put together these programs that add extra functionality to facebook, often in a form analogous to widgets on your profile, but also in interactions with other users.

In a way this is great—just about any feature you could want can be programmed and implemented outside of facebook. Luckily not all bets are off, so as far as I’ve seen facebook profiles haven’t gone the way of myspace, where every website design faux-paux is committed a dozen times over on every other page. I’m also glad that though there exists an application to play music on your profile, few of my friends have adopted it.

It seems that people’s privacy concerns have gone out the window. Who cares who’s getting your information when you’re getting a little graphic to display your political leanings on your profile? Who cares whose servers it is that you’re storing this information about every vacation and business trip you’re taking in the next few years?

Actually, if you are concerned about that sort of thing, you probably shouldn’t be on facebook in the first place. People tend to forget, because its a social networking site and your profile is there for your friends, that the internet is still a public place. When you post on someone’s wall that you’re going to meet them tomorrow night at 11:00 at that bar downtown, that’s now public knowledge. With few restrictions on joining networks and so many people adding friends without ever meeting them, even if you have your privacy settings on the most stringent level information you put out there is still accessible.

Am I one to advocate privacy? Not at all—in fact I’m usually against it. But if I were, I would not have this website, but I still keep in mind that this is completely public. I don’t put anything on here that I don’t want someone to see. If you don’t want your mom or your boss seeing those pictures of you drunk off your ass, or smoking weed with your buds, don’t post them on facebook.

But I digress. The thing I’ve been noticing that I alluded too originally was that people seem to be dropping these applications just as soon as they’re picking them up. I’ve resisted adding any applications myself though just because they seem redundant (the “Top Friends” and “X Me” apps, for example), pointless (“Political Compass” comes to mind again), or like the very first fax machine.

A few that I find interesting or cute fall into the last category. I suspect in time things will begin to settle down as the truly useful and innovative applications come to the foreground like the few good television shows that everybody is watching despite the multitude of other options around. Half of what makes shows like that interesting is talking about them with other people the next day, in the same way that what makes the features of facebook fun to use is interactions with others.

So some time down the line I might find an application I want to try. Signing my profile away to those who run it probably isn’t much different from signing it away to facebook anyway. For now, though, I’m keeping it simple until all this superfluous stuff dies down.

Random FAQ Comments (3)

3 Responses to “On facebook applications”

  1. Hey,

    here’s a fairly simple example I thought your readers would enjoy: http://ucdavis.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=2406256883

    It’s meant to enable people to fight on facebook for any reason – seems cool so far !

  2. Jon says:

    Now i am incredibly curious to know what that photo was!

  3. Eric says:

    This is exactly what I expected to find out after reading the title On facebook applications. Thanks for informative article

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