In an ongoing series of posts on the differences between large tech companies, I look at the different models they take (attach, push, tinker, refine) and who their spiritual children may be. In this entry, it’s all about the pusher.
The Pusher: Facebook
Facebook is no stranger to controversy around privacy. I would even venture to say that no company has gone further to force the discussion about what privacy means in the internet age. However, this doesn’t mean that it did so in a way that left everyone happy.
Facebook’s attitude when it comes to privacy is one of finding the edge and then going substantially beyond it. As one would expect, this substantial over-reach generally results in as large a pushback but, when all is said and done, Facebook always ends up having moved the edge a little further, creating a world where the definition of privacy ends up a little more relaxed.
In 2007, Facebook pushed the edge of online advertising by unveiling the facebook beacon, a program where facebook published data from external sites into its user feeds. The program was extremely controversial at the time, resulting in a class action lawsuit and the eventual closing of facebook beacons in 2009.
Since then, Facebook has introduced Facebook connect, which does basically the same thing, but the reaction, this time around, has been largely positive. With the approach now validated and users apparently accepting it, Facebook decided to drop the connect moniker altogether and just merge it back into the existing facebook brand.
Move the marker
A successful pusher creates new product features by moving the marker in terms of what is considered acceptable behavior. In most cases, such a move creates controversy.
Dennis Crowley can be as another pusher. Back in the early part of the last decade, he created Dodgeball, a company that allowed users to broadcast where they were to their friends. At the time, some people had concern about the privacy issues relating to location data, especially after Dodgeball was acquired by Google.
In 2009, Crowley, having left Google, launched Foursquare, a product that looks and feels like a modern version of Dodgeball. This time, there hasn’t been as much controversy but the relentless effort of Crowley in the mobile location space has created a whole new sector, with competitors and innovators now trying to compete.
In this case, Crowley has, as an individual across three different companies, moved the marker around how acceptable it is to broadcast location data.
A pusher pushes the envelope and one could argue that this category represents the closest thing to revolutionary developers. Without pushers, major leaps cannot be made.