For everyone following the game of Beacon Chicken that Facebook’s playing, you can catch a great recap on the NY Times Bits blog with a "historical" perspective courtesy of MoveOn.org (note that it’s been less than four weeks from Beacon’s launch until this latest change). Check out The Evolution of Facebooks Beacon – Bits – Technology – New York Times Blog. The article concludes:
Facebook executives say they do not want to add a universal opt-out button because then users would not be able to try out Beacon on different sites to see what it can offer. One Facebook executive predicts that consumers may “fall in love” with Beacon once they understand it. Only time will tell.
The blog lets Facebook off too lightly there (maybe the Times worries it will find itself opted out of scoops). It’s a haughty, self-serving attitude from Facebook.
YET… There’s some truth to it too. Look at cookies, or what Amazon does with your purchase history, or just about any online innovation with personalization. All of that leads to a much better experience for most users most of the time, and if people universally opted out, they really would miss out on much of what makes online media so engaging. Some degree of education is required. Additionally, most people don’t need to know every last detail; some degree of ignorance is bliss.
YET… There’s a middle ground, and Facebook has not gone nearly far enough. Here’s how to make this go away: offer the universal opt-out from Beacon, bury it a bit among the other settings (make it accessible, but not front and center), and before the user confirms universal opt-out, explain the value proposition. If the user still wants to go ahead with it, then after it’s confirmed, show how easy it is to opt back in (and if the user opted out of a couple sites first before universally opting out, save those settings so if he/she opts back in to the system, he/she won’t get updates from the sites that were deselected).
The saving grace for Facebook is that if it’s right, users will still see friends’ Beacon updates in the News Feed, and if the user’s so enamored with seeing what his friends are doing, he may well participate too. Facebook still has the News Feed as its most powerful marketing channel. It can even advertise Beacon in its sponsored stories.
Last note on this: if you want to see Beacon in action and don’t want to purchase anything, log in to Facebook, and then in a separate window go to Kongregate.com and play a game like Desktop Tower Defense. You should see a Beacon alert when your game ends. Go back to Facebook and you should have the opt-in alert from Beacon there. (Check my profile for an example in my Mini Feed).