Media Apps Add Some Resistance to Facebook's 'Frictionless Sharing'

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When Facebook introduced new 'frictionless sharing' last month, many industry watchers, myself included, wondered whether it was a good idea. After all, you might not want everyone to automatically know precisely what stories you're reading on The Daily or Washington Post. The stories might be embarrassing or show you're researching a competitor or idea.

Now, InsideFacebook has an excellent rundown of what different news apps are doing to provide users with more control over how and when what they're reading will be shared with their Facebook contacts. The Daily is considered to have the worst privacy controls: "It defaults sharing to public, reports the specific articles users are reading, and does not provide any way to preemptively opt out of or retract sharing."

Meanwhile, Josh Constine calls the Independent's privacy controls "a sensible balance between privacy and virality." Constine explains, "The Independent's privacy widget is relatively prominent, offers granular control over past activity, and lets users preemptively disable sharing of their reading activity so it never reaches Facebook."

The backdrop for frictonless sharing should be that Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg no longer wants his site's success measured in unique users. As detailed by economists Peter Cauwels and Didier Sornette in a recent paper, Zuckerberg wants Facebook measured by its "volume of sharing" rather than user growth. What's a good way to boost sharing? Switch the default from user-initiated sharing to automatic sharing. That means it is up to media organizations and app designers to build-in the privacy.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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