The Future of Facebook: A Shift from Public to Private

In a recent post, Facebook’s founder outlined his privacy-focused vision for the future of social networking. Mark Zuckerberg’s vision has been laid out into interrelated categories: Encryption, safety, secure data storage, private interactions, reducing permanence, and interoperability. Though this vision is more a set of goals than a list of concrete mechanisms, there are some components that point to clear ideas of what we can expect from the social media giant. We’ve gone through each category to provide you with the four major key takeaways so you can start to think about how Facebook’s transition may affect your business:

  1. Encryption, Safety, and Secure Data Storage

“There is a growing awareness that the more entities that have access to your data, the more vulnerabilities there are for someone to misuse it or for a cyber attack to expose it. There is also a growing concern among some that technology may be centralizing power in the hands of governments and companies like ours. And some people worry that our services could access their messages and use them for advertising or in other ways they don’t expect."

The takeaway: These three aspects of Facebook’s vision can be directly linked to an attempt to recapture trust. Last year, the number of Facebook’s European daily active users (DAUs) decreased by 4 million from Q1 to Q3, prompting analysts to suggest that the platform’s ongoing privacy scandals and the GDPR were leading users to step away. The number of European DAUs have since stabilized, but a decline in trust of the social network is still a prominent concern. As such, Facebook is beginning to model its platform in ways that could address these concerns.

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2. Private interactions

“People should have simple, intimate places where they have clear control over who can communicate with them and confidence that no one else can access what they share.”

The term “Dark Social” was coined by a senior editor at The Atlantic in 2012, and is meant to describe website referrals that are difficult to track. When checking your site analytics you may notice a large amount of direct traffic to specific pages. This doesn’t necessarily mean that visitors know exact page links, but are instead most likely the result of dark social (i.e. untrackable referrals), For example, link sharing through messaging. 

The takeaway: As much as 84% of all shares to websites across the internet are untracked. There are ways to deal with dark social, but it’s not an exact science, and this number is likely to increase as Facebook shifts more of their users’ focus from public to private sharing. It is unclear on how this will exactly affect paid social, specifically the use of Facebook Pixel and targeted ads, but we can say with certainty that shifting to a “messaging-first” social platform with end-to-end encryption will definitely change the face of advertising.

3. Reducing permanence

“People should be comfortable being themselves, and should not have to worry about what they share coming back to hurt them later. So we won’t keep messages or stories around for longer than necessary to deliver the service or longer than people want them.”

The takeaway: Ephemeral content is on the rise—starting with Snapchat and transitioning into the widespread usage of Instagram Stories, people like sharing content that, if not archived, will automatically be deleted after a while. It is no surprise that Facebook plans to further this with automatically deleted messages. In combining this with private interactions, we expect Facebook to release a tool similar to Instagram’s “close friends” option for stories, where users can privately share ephemeral content with a specific person or groups of people.

4. Interoperability

“People should be able to use any of our apps to reach their friends, and they should be able to communicate across networks easily and securely.”

The takeaway: Earlier this year, Mr. Zuckerberg announced an upcoming technical integration of WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger. This could provide added convenience—one example is the current sharing of private telephone numbers over e-commerce integrations like Facebook Marketplace. Instead, users who use Messenger as their primary messaging service could contact prospective buyers or sellers on WhatsApp without actually exchanging numbers. On the other hand, it’s unclear how this technical integration would be legally feasible throughout Europe, as Germany’s national competition regulator recently ordered Facebook to stop combining user data from different sources without their voluntary consent.

“Frankly we don’t currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services, and we’ve historically focused on tools for more open sharing, but we’ve repeatedly shown that we can evolve to build the services that people really want, including in private messaging and stories.”
— Mark Zuckerberg

The future of Facebook promises many exciting changes. Though we only have a small glimpse into what this future may be, we certainly know that consumer privacy will play an important role. How will this affect your brand? We’ll keep you updated every step of the way—stay tuned!

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