Beacon returns, more annoying than ever

Jackson West · 09/18/08 12:20PM

Fantasy football enthusiast Jesse Stay has caught a new instance of Facebook's much-maligned Beacon advertising system, with a Facebook popup appearing on the CBS Sports site asking if it can advertise in Stay's news feed. Don Reisinger at TechCrunch confirmed that Beacon is alive, recreating the situation and finding the offending source code. While users upset at the site's redesign are busy finding workarounds, this development might slip under the radar. In which case: Well played, Facebook. [Stay 'N Alive]

Virus mimics Facebook's hated Beacon ads

Nicholas Carlson · 08/26/08 12:20PM

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg should be relieved to learn that someone is at last "leveraging the social graph," as he might put it, for financial gain. Problem is, it's not Facebook. It's hackers pulling a phishing scam. A tipster tells us his friends at Facebook are busy fighting a virus that tricks a user into opening "a YouTube phishing site," delivered in the form of a Facebook message from one of the user's Facebook friends.

Facebook's new money plan: same as the old one

Nicholas Carlson · 08/21/08 09:00AM

Tim Kendall is Facebook's director of monetization. (We were sad to learn his job has nothing to do with the French impressionists.) He says Facebook can make its notoriously low-performing Social Ads work — basically by bring back Beacon. The key, Kendall told AllFacebook, is keeping track of Facebook users' commercial activities on and off the site and then, when a user buys a product, offering the product's marketers a chance to pay Facebook to tell that user's friends in their Facebook News Feeds. "Marketers will be able to pay for increased or enhanced distribution above and beyond what News Feed already provides," explains AllFacebook's Nick O'Neill.

Why Silicon Valley just won't shut up about FriendFeed

Owen Thomas · 05/05/08 11:20AM

"Cathy Brooks is a typically unapologetic Silicon Valley Web addict," writes Brad Stone in the New York Times. "Last week alone, she produced more than 40 pithy updates on the text messaging service Twitter, uploaded two dozen videos to various video sharing sites, posted seven photographs on the Yahoo image service Flickr and one item to the online community calendar Upcoming." Usually, when one identifies a friend as an addict, an intervention is in order. But Stone, who seems to have spent so much time in San Francisco's tech circles that he's gone native, suggests more technology instead: Specifically, FriendFeed, which gathers all of this online activity in one place, making it marginally easier for Brooks's benighted friends to keep up with her online logorrhea.

Facebook dumping $100,000/mo. Sponsored Groups for Pages

Owen Thomas · 05/02/08 02:40PM

It's hard to count the ways Mark Zuckerberg botched the launch of Facebook's "Social Ads" last fall. From the portentous talk of a once-every-100-years "change" in media, to the privacy brouhaha over Facebook's Beacon technology, Facebook's inexperienced CEO did just about everything wrong. At last, he's starting to get things right. Facebook has begun encouraging advertisers with sponsored groups to shift to Facebook Pages instead. Apple, with the largest sponsored group, has moved 400,000 members of its Apple Students group to be "fans" of the Apple Facebook page instead. It's a big, risky, and potentially costly change.

Charlie Rose on Charlie Rose on the Internet, by Samuel Beckett

Nicholas Carlson · 04/21/08 03:00PM

Over the years, Charlie Rose has hosted Silicon Valley titans like Wired editor Chris Anderson, founder Jeff Bezos, and Google cofounder Sergey Brin on his late-night public television interview show. When Facebook launched its Beacon advertising program in New York, Rose played master of ceremonies. But not until now, with the discovery of this clip titled "'Charlie Rose' by Samuel Beckett," has Rose effectively explicated the industry.

Facebook can't get basic ad targeting right

Jackson West · 04/17/08 04:40PM

Facebook has great features for users, but is having a hard time selling ads. The Beacon program attempts to get agreements from companies to pay Facebook in return for broadcasting purchasing information to friends as an indirect endorsement of the brand. Users revolted, and now Blockbuster, not Facebook, is getting sued for giving up a customer's data — not exactly an incentive for advertisers to sign up with the company's next "revolutionary" scheme. Meanwhile, Facebook can't even get the most basic demographic targeting right. Boinkology points to the case of Peter Knox who, while listed as "straight" in the Facebook database, can't seem to get away from come ons to talk to hot, gay men. Either Facebook's ad-placement algorithms are so good they can even pick up on latent homosexuality, or the company can't even run a basic query against user-selected preference in order to target ads.

Beacon a business failure, too

Owen Thomas · 01/14/08 02:34PM

Is it advertising if no one pays for it? In its rush to criticize Facebook's Beacon in last night's segment on the hot social network, 60 Minutes forgot to ask that question. In dramatic tones, correspondent Lesley Stahl ominously noted how "advertisers pulled out" after controversy erupted over the feature, which reports on users' online activities, including purchases. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended it to Stahl as the future of advertising, a form of sponsorship less crass than banner ads. If it's the future of advertising, though, it's not a very lucrative one.

Mark Zuckerberg gets off scot free in "60 Minutes" interview

Owen Thomas · 01/11/08 12:57PM

No one expects the fannish inquisition. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg can breathe easy; he has nothing to fear from 60 Minutes after all. From the looks of the teaser CBS News is running for his upcoming interview, the hardest question Zuckerberg got asked was if he got in trouble at Harvard for launching Facemash, a predecessor of Facebook built from photos he hacked out of school servers. The venerable news organization even got his net worth wrong — he owns 27 percent of Facebook, making him worth $4 billion on paper, not $3 billion. So much for factchecking. Here are the questions we wish CBS's Lesley Stahl had asked — but doubt she bothered:

Find Facebook ads creepy? I do!

Nicholas Carlson · 12/27/07 03:40PM

Yes, Facebook, I am getting married. I presume you know this because my fiancée and I are listed as engaged to each other in our profiles. It's even possible you know the wedding is soon because she registered us on, a Beacon partner. And even though she opted not to have you spam our friends about it, it's conceivable that you're still keeping track of her activity on the site, despite promising to discard the data. That's fine. Eventually we were going to tell you about the wedding anyway. But, Facebook, you might want to know: I'm not an American Express cardholder. And also: I'm not going to buy that dress. Oh, and one more thing?

Top 5 FAILs of 2007

Paul Boutin · 12/23/07 07:23PM

They were going to CHANGE EVERYTHING. Whoops. presenting five biggest technology disappointments of the past year. No, not Vista and the Kindle — you didn't expect anything there.

FTC seeks to bore online advertisers with proposals

Nicholas Carlson · 12/21/07 04:40PM

Following its approval of the Google-DoubleClick merger, the FTC put out a series of proposals regarding privacy and online advertising. Dear God they're boring. But relevant nonetheless. Here are the bullet points.

Facebook gets ad booty, booty ads

Nicholas Carlson · 12/11/07 03:30PM

Advertisers have forgiven Facebook for Beacongate, Mediaweek reports. Despite the ill-thought-out introduction of Facebook's privacy-invading ads, they plan to keep their money flowing. Most even appreciate how with Beacon, Facebook tried something new and uproven. But more and more, readers are finding very proven methods of advertising all over Facebook. Sex sells, and despite rules against porn ads, Facebook's ad-review staff can't seem to keep up with the softcore stuff flooding the site. Frankly, we're disgusted amused. Here's the latest example. With apologies to Fark, we must note it's NSFW.

"The Internet is the new leaving the tape in the VCR"

Owen Thomas · 12/10/07 08:04AM

This clip about Facebook's controversial Beacon ads from the MTV-wannabe Fuse network doesn't tell you much new — but there's a great line at the end. The fact that it's become news on music-video channels tells you this: The bad buzz about Beacon has traveled much, much farther than the actual ads have.

How to turn off Facebook's Grinch

Nicholas Carlson · 12/06/07 01:40PM

You've heard the horror stories about how Facebook's Beacon ads can ruin your Christmas. Even though — the online retailer whose use of Beacon caused most of the uproar — has turned Beacon off, there's no telling who Zuckerberg might sucker into installing the ads next. Take action now. Use Facebook's new privacy options to turn it off. Here's the simple four-click process.