In this way, it has even come to supercede basic email interaction as a way of establishing lines of communication. Moreover, the nature of the forum is such that the lines of communication are always open and function in a way that is multidirectional.
As a result, Facebook is today continually redefining both the way people use the internet, and even more importantly, the way that people intercourse socially. Such is demonstrated by the evolving purposes which social networking sites have come to reflect, increasingly eschewing previously prominent cultural tendencies emphasizing modesty, privacy and disclosure only to a close circle of friends. The aggressive expansion of one's social circle via such networking avenues has produced myriad unconscious rationales for sharing such personal information. As Salkever (2009) observes, this has become an ever more persistent condition of youth culture, with personal disclosure mirroring these instincts amongst peers and in a celebrity culture which imposes a significant influence on the desires and impressions of adolescents and teenagers. Salkever finds that "for the first time, social media has made it convenient to tap the collective wisdom of your crowd, and people who know your crowd, to get recommendations for just about anything. Sure, you could blast friends with an email for advice in the past, but no one would dream of constantly bombarding lesser-known acquaintances for such information. By tapping into this new and powerful form of search, Facebook can also tear off a significant chunk of the value of the act of searching." (Salkever, 1) This is to say that the availability both of private information from others and the simultaneous access to the opinions, impressions and expectations of others has rendered this disclosure as a means to relating and connecting.
That said, Facebook is simultaneously the subject of intense scrutiny for various aspects of its privacy and information-sharing policies. That is to say that the nature of the internet and of social networking in particular makes the removal of one's images, words and identity next to impossible. In this regard, Salkever compares social networking to search engine usage and recognizes that the personalization of disclosure in the former makes it a far more permanent body of content on the web. Salkever contends that "because any given user's switching cost from one search engine to another is close to zero. Google has a great product, but the entire world could switch to Microsoft (MSFT)'s Bing search engine in a split-second with little consequence. But Facebook has insanely high switching costs. After you've built a network of friends, uploaded pictures, and used Facebook Connect to sign up for dozens of other sites, the idea of ditching it all for some new service is quite painful." (Salkever, 1) the result has been something of a backlash for Facebook, and one to which it must answer with increasing specificity and competency if it is to sustain the enthusiasm of its growing community of users.
That said, it remains also a challenge to properly characterize the economic nature of a company such as Facebook. Highlighted in the text by Harken, it is difficult to determine accurately the economic value of a strictly virtual product. Accordingly, Harken indicates that "at its revenue run-rate, Facebook's reported valuations were unsupported by rational financial models." (Harken, 153) This helps to highlight the particular challenge of projecting success on strictly economic terms.
That said, according to Harken's article, Facebook is still in what it views as the early stages of growth. Therefore, its primary strategy has been to gain the financial backing for a continued press forward in its grass-roots networking faculties. This includes what Harken cites as a $25 million financing deal through a firm called Greylock Partners. (Harken, 154) This would be predicated on the view that its penetration will continue at an exponential rate for the immediately foreseeable future.
This also helps to highlight the core problem at the center of the case analysis, which is the conflict of interests between Facebook's ever-expanding model and the privacy concerns both of it users and of individuals outside of the Facebook community. As a result, Facebook's current business model must be seen as being at a cross-roads, particularly in light of a rising discourse on the issues of privacy and the difficulties of withdrawing from Facebook as a user. Most particularly, in light of the criticism to which this makes Facebook vulnerable, it seems that a preeminent goal for Facebook's leaders in the immediate future will be to achieve satisfactory measures and assurances of privacy protections. As the profile and case analysis presented here demonstrate though, this is a rather complex ambition. In many ways, these privacy issues are simultaneously identifying features which Facebook has used to its own ends of success. Clearly though, new approaches to the protection of privacy may be seen as a way of drawing in yet more users who might otherwise fear the implications of the social networking experience.
Barnes, S.B. (2006). A Privacy Paradox: Social Networking in the United States. First Monday, 11(9).
Harkey, M. (2006). Case 14: Facebook. Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Miyazaki, a.D. & Fernandez, a. (2000). Internet Privacy and Security: An Examination of Online Retailer Disclosures. Journal…