One person posts a picture and a friend comments on it, then mutual friends (such as those who are oddly curious about the poster of the picture or someone in it) can take a quick glimpse at that person's life. This is rewarded by the brain with a small shot of dopamine.
This is a function not of the social graph itself (friend) but of the addictive nature of the fleeting glimpses it allows people to have of others.
Suppose you have 500 friends who each have several hundred friends. Some subset of those friends constitutes your "fascination graph". Maybe you think they are hot, maybe you aspire to their lifestyle, maybe you hated them in high school, etc. etc.
In order to continue to succeed, Facebook (and app makers) have to realize that it's not the mundane behaviors of your Facebook friends that are interesting... it's the allure of those on the fascination graph that generates the dopamine and the slot machine-addict kind of clicking that is gold to advertisers.
Facebook has managed to deliver this dopamine in a way that's not creepy (nobody has to go through anyone's garbage, etc.) so the question is, is it ever going to start to seem creepy?
It's funny when you think about it, in the earlier years, you had the network search tool. Basically all profiles were public and you could search based on age, country, gender, university... everything. I could literally narrow down searches to people on a street. Was it really more private then? No? Then what changed? At what point will privacy be fulfilled and can one really call it a social network at that point?
There is Diaspora, if privacy is really what users want then, why haven't we seen a massive conversion to Diaspora?
Users are generally right, it doesn't matter in most cases. No harm is being done... yet.
The general trend is toward services that do not make privacy optional and that require the users to accept a narrower range data collection and advertisement policies in order to use the service.
In time (maybe in 5-10 years) getting on the internet will require accepting terms that basically give up lots of privacy and anonymity. (My other prediction is that we'll see the return of interruption ads that cannot be skipped for nearly all content, or every 7 or 8 minutes during a typical internet usage setting).
The above is why investors are paying so much money for shares of Google and Facebook. Both are a combination of internet gatekeeper and data collector. Both are awaiting the right moment so they can enter the "last mile" business. In the meantime, the fact that users don't care is just gravy.
Incidentally, the most relevant consequence of this in today's world is that both firms are happy to do whatever powerful governments want. Facebook and Google are destined to become the next Halliburton and Ratheon as cyber warfare and terrorism loom large as threats to security and government finds itself horribly data-poor compared to private firms.
While I agree that privacy is not "really what users want", the lack of a massive conversion to Diaspora is not indicative of anything. There was an article a week or two ago where an investor pointed out that Facebook is a natural monopoly. What they were talking about is basically that, now that most people are on Facebook, they're not going to pick up and walk out for another social network.
You might. Your friends might. But you post on HN, too.
> It makes no sense being all semantic about it
Does it really not? Look, you're commenting on an article which states that Facebook leaks our privacy. Don't you happen to notice that it does so because everyone is considered a friend? This ambiguity and lack of precision in defining the personal relationship to people you are in contact with, coupled with simply assuming by default that everyone's your trusted friend and can be given access to the most private details of your life is exactly what causes "privacy leaks". It's a social mechanism, and granted - if every user were to set up his privacy options in the perfect way - they wouldn't be happening. But we're only human, and on many levels, some of them subconscious, it's difficult for us to keep in mind that a friend may, in fact, not be a friend.