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Facebook Goes Open Source–With Its TOS

After what can only be termed a kerfuffle last week over changes to its Terms of Service, Facebook has decided to take some pretty drastic steps to address the issue of content ownership on the social networking site: they’re soliciting input from their users.

Asking for user feedback? Revolutionary, I know—but when it comes to setting the legal policies for one of the most popular sites in the world, somehow I don’t think direct democracy is the best way to determine IP rights. (Okay, I’m sure they’re not going the direct democracy route. Who does these days—I mean, really? Even Digg isn’t really democratic anymore.)

Yes, rather than letting their users directly write and/or edit their Terms of Service (Wiki-style FTW!), Facebook is encouraging its users to comment on a set of guiding principles they will use to shape specific language and policies in the future. The proposed Facebook Principles and Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (woot for recognizing that rights come with responsibilities!) are now available for comment from users until March 29.

So why all the fuss? Facebook made a change to its TOS this month indicating that members couldn’t revoke the license they grant to Facebook to use their content even when they delete their account. People didn’t like it. People didn’t like it so much they couldn’t shut up about how they didn’t consent to the change, and how they were leaving the site because of it. Facebook took it back, so it should be over, right?

Not so much—and not everyone (okay, it looks like almost no one) is impressed by FB’s efforts. I like what Stacy D. Kramer of paidContent had to say about it, that Facebook is opening this up:

in the apparent hope of either coming to a group decision or giving users enough of a chance to make themselves heard that they’ll feel like they participated even if it doesn’t go their way.

Read Write Web, on the other hand, says “Facebook’s management has lost its grip on reality” and this effort shows their relationship with their users is “delusional.” Meanwhile, Econsultancy says Facebook needs “common sense, not democracy.”

Though she didn’t bother to hide her boredom with the conference call, BoomTown’s Kara Swisher said that it was “like being at the Constitutional Convention, except for geeks,” with their calls of transparency and openness. (Um, kind of, except the opposite. Attendees at the Convention were sworn to secrecy during proceedings. Transparency, not so much. But you get the intended analogy, I’m sure.)

I’m guessing this effort is direct evidence that Facebook is looking to replace this clause with a less-offensive one designed to grant the same right in perpetuity, but this time, they’ll be able to point directly at these efforts and say that they asked members for their input. The most vocal critics are likely to comment on the Principles and Statement.

How much do you think Facebook will be able to give their critics if they want/claim to need this right?

  • http://www.purposeinc.com purposeinc – dk – Dr. David Klein

    Last week, I got to spend a whole day at facebook and had the opportunity to have some long discussions and was able to advise them on some specific situations, (not the one in this article). I can honestly say that with the executives I met with, when you look them in the eye they are much more concerned about the users experience, and protecting the users data, than they are in making a buck. The quality of the site, and the experience of the user were always at the top of any conversation.

    They are very open to getting user input to improve things.

    purposeinc – dk – Dr. David Klein’s last blog post..Glimpes of Elite Retreat

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  • http://seonik.com/new-generation-of-internet-payment.html PerfectMOney

    I think all of this Buzz and “earth shake”is what facebook do to build there popularity,for one time ,they become a Judas at the other they become the redeemer.at other time he rise his voice like a lincoln though I am thinking this is what fatebook do to put people attention to him during the fall of multi billionaire advertising online industry.More clumsy act they did ,more people SEE them and more people Join them,What a Nice tricks I think

  • http://www.tlmarketing.net Tom – Stay At Home Business

    Let´s see for how long there TOS will stay this time.I think the whole idea was to get some publicity.

    Tom – Stay At Home Business’s last blog post..Guide To Scrapbooks

  • http://www.nrev.com John Murray

    I really cannot believe that people care this much about the content on their Facebook site. Facebook will soon become uncool like MySpace, and there will me a mass migration to Twitter.

  • http://www.velvetblues.com Shirley

    They should have done this the first time around. The facebook community is their bread & butter. So if they are making HUGE changes, they should get feedback first.

    Shirley’s last blog post..Is Video The Future Of Blogging?

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  • http://www.vuzudesign.com Chris – Web Design Cheltenham

    I think facebook has overcomplicated a great social networking product – throw me a smowball? send me a hug? Common

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