It's been almost two months since Facebook introduced the next-generation Open Graph and the apps to go with it. The big new 'feature' was that everything you did with an app, 'listen' to music, 'read' an article, was automatically shared with your Facebook friends.
This subtle but incredibly big change redefined the nature of sharing, it was no longer an active act of curation, rather it was a passive act, something that happened in the background.
What's more, users had to actively intervene and 'not share' something, rather than the other way around.
There were some critics of the feature, as well as some that heralded it as the future at that time, as it happens with any new Facebook feature.
Then things died down, everyone moved forward, everyone was still using Facebook. Until this weekend, when a deluge of material around the issue started popping up on the web, some criticizing the feature, some standing behind it.
There are two main camps, one that argues that automatic sharing breaks the very nature of sharing, that it devalues the things shared and that it breaks down trust people put on the things showing up on Facebook from their friends.
Automatic sharing is creepy and it breaks down sharing
If you know that everything your friend reads gets shared and you can see dozens of articles coming from one person, how do you know which are actually good and which aren't. Chances are, you'll stop clicking on any link.
That's an even bigger problem, and an issue brought up by detractors, since, when clicking on a link automatically shared by a friend, you're presented with the requirement that you install a Facebook app in order to read or listen to the content.
That's the same strategy that malware and scareware employ to get people to install stuff. Facebook legitimizing the process is not very 'considerate.'
Automatic sharing is the future
The other camp believes that this new sharing is the future. Its proponents believe that the nature of sharing is changing, for the better, and that automatically sharing everything you do will eventually be accepted as the norm. That doesn't make it a good thing, though.
The question is not whether people will adjust to it, they will, but whether automatic sharing adds value. And that's debatable. With more info from everyone, Facebook will have an even better idea of what is popular and what is not among your friends.
In theory, it could use this data to suggest a song to you that a lot of your friends are listening to, but which none of them would have bothered to share themselves.
And you may even like that song. But this implies that the algorithm will to its job. What's more, it implies that Facebook's algorithms will do a better job than your friends in getting you the stuff that is most relevant.
And it implies that Facebook believes it knows better than your friends.
That is to say, Facebook is doing a 180 degree turn on what sharing means. It built the site on the concept that your friends know better what you want and like than any algorithm ever will, no matter how hard Google tries.
Yet, now, Facebook believes that it is indeed an algorithm that knows best, albeit based on data from your friends.
Facebook and Google have the same vision on how the web should work
The irony is, that's exactly why Google built Google+, it needs better access to user activity and preferences, so it can improve its search results and its advertising. Facebook now has the same strategy, the same vision that Google has. This should give both companies pause for thought, though that's unlikely to happen.