Facebook Instant Personalization: Inception to Implementation ( A Comprehensive Review)

Written by Nick SanchezFebruary 15, 2011

Part 1: Inception to Implementation

Since introducing its API to the public in 2006, Facebook’s slow but steady branching out has taken users from the launch of Facebook Platform in 2007, which allows third party developers to build social applications within Facebook (e.g. Farmville), to Facebook Connect in 2008, which allows users to connect chosen private information to websites outside Facebook, and finally to Facebook Instant Personalization in 2010.

Though most wouldn’t call Instant Personalization the biggest addition to the Facebook oeuvre, it can be, like all social media technologies, either a boon or blight for the businesses that employ it.

When Facebook originally announced the technology it was offered in conjunction with only three websites: Yelp, Pandora and Microsoft Docs. But since then, Facebook has partnered with five additional companies—Rotten Tomatoes, Bing, Scribd, Clicker and Trip Advisor—leading many to believe Instant Personalization is here to stay, and likely to be rolled out to more businesses in the future.

So what do you need to know about Instant Personalization? Lucky enough, the new technology is conceptually simple. It allows companies to sense if a user’s surf session has included a Facebook login and, if so, to access the user’s publicly displayed information (which by default includes their Profile Picture, Interests/Likes and Friends list). With this information, a site can then customize a user’s experience. It might sprinkle the homepage with information about your friend’s activity, for example, or recommend products and services based on your Likes and Interests.

After announcing Instant Personalization last April, the blogosphere became an echo chamber of denunciatory stump speeches about Facebook’s alleged abuse of private information. In fact, Googling “Facebook Instant Personalization” lists three results all calling the technology down before listing the actual Instant Personalization information page hosted on Facebook.

Now, acknowledging that the feature can be easily disabled and shares only what users share with the public, this article will step aside from the hubbub to examine the pros and cons of the way these eight company’s have gone about their respective implementations. In doing so, I feel it best to acknowledge that the level of privacy paranoia as well as the interest in having a more social experience outside the social networking site varies incredibly, and thus differing implementations of Instant Personalization will naturally be loved by some and hated by others. The important thing is to understand the options the new technology confers, and to learn from those that have been given a crack at it.

Read Part 2: A Review of Instant Personalization’s Implementation

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