It is difficult to underestimate the value, to Facebook, of all this activity. Now, very soon, it will also have the largest database connecting people to the things they enjoy, whether those things are news stories, restaurants, songs, books, movies, jeans, cosmetics, or anything else.This is going to freak out some folks. After all, there's public, and then there's public. You can make a goofy Facebook profile picture accessible to anybody with a Facebook login, but you don't necessarily want it splashed on a highway billboard. You might be OK with friends checking out your favorite movies and music, but how would you feel about Best Buy, and IMDB, and Target knowing before you even told them because Facebook developed a proprietary information-sharing platform to help companies target consumers? We'll hear these concerns with increasing frequency.
But there's reason to be psyched, not spooked, by the empire of "like." Imagine the improvement to online shopping "if it made consistently good recommendations based on your known likes and dislikes," as Manjoo muses. Imagine the improvements to targeted advertising: you're browsing CNN on your smart phone and a mobile ad pops up with a happy hour coupon for a restaurant around the block you liked on Yelp. Imagine a news aggregation site that organized your friends' favorite opinion pieces by their self-described political persuasion, so that you could break out that news feed into liberal, conservative, and libertarian. A trainable Internet that listens and remembers what we like: that's not something to be afraid of.