[Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from an email sent by entrepreneur Jason Calacanis to his personal mailing list from the D8 digital entrepreneurship conference outside Los Angeles, after watching Facebook founder Mark Zuckberg’s onstage interview. Zuckerberg seemed to dodge questions about Facebook’s privacy policies and settings. Calacanis had shut down his Facebook account in May, claiming he didn’t trust the site anymore.]
Here’s my open letter to Mark on how he can rebuild trust and what it would take for me to be an active Facebook user.
Nice seeing you at the conference. It was very nice of you to come over and say hello.
Here are five simple things you can do to make yourself, and Facebook, more trustworthy.
1. Add an export key. Every major consumer service out there has this feature called “export.” When you click on this feature the service returns to you the information you’ve put in it. In the case of Facebook you could do this by having the ability for users to export all their photos, contacts and–gasp–their social graph! I’m certain no more than 1% of users would ever use this feature–but it would speak volumes.
Or you could simply allow the 3rd party folks who have ALREADY BUILT THESE FEATURES to not have them turned off by your engineers for breaking your “terms of service.” The fact that you don’t have an easy to export feature is such a “tell.” A tell in poker is a behavioral nuance that gives away how strong or weak your hand is.
Your hand is really weak if you don’t have an export feature. The best services in the world have export and you don’t. Why? I suspect you realize how quickly people might leave if you added this. The counter intuitive thing is that people DON’T leave when they see an export button unless you really suck–and you don’t! Your products are good and you should let people move their data.
2. Support a common ‘Like’ standard. This is so simple. Create an open standard where all likes and like buttons would go into some central repository and be shared across StumbleUpon, Digg, Delicious and whoever else wants the data.
One of the reasons Facebook has become despised in the startup community is because you don’t embrace open source and collaborative solutions. Oh yeah, you steal everyone’s ideas and incorporate them into your product and then make them closed. That’s a smack in the face and then a kick in the ass to your colleagues and, in the end, unnecessary.
3. Do not require folks to use your currency. Allow 100 different currencies inside of Facebook in the same way Google allows Chrome to support any search engine. Sure, go ahead and make yourself the default, but think big picture and let there be some level of competition inside your ecosystem.
4. Remind users of their privacy setting. Require a dialogue box every 10 days or so that reminds users of the default status of their updates before posting them, and allow them to set their standard privacy setting in that dialogue box. Make this a road block in plain English–not Facebook engineer speak–so that grandma and 14 year olds understand it.
Here is some sample dialogue: “Currently everyone in the world can see your status updates, and they are indexed in search engines and our service forever. You can change this setting right now for all your updates going forward. Here are your choices: 1. Send updates to everyone (your current setting), 2. Send updates only to my friends, 3. Send updates to my friends and their friends. If you don’t understand this please click here to watch a video about our three privacy options.”
Consider a similar dialogue when folks upload photos.
5. Stop stealing every idea out there and partner. Would it kill you to partner with the companies that you’re rolling over every two weeks? You’ve already won, so now is the time to be magnanimous! Pick 10 groovy startups and partner with them. I know, you are modeling your career after Bill Gates and his annihilation of partners including WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3 and countless others.
You’re building up a lot of enemies by not partnering and playing nice with startups. That might work when you’re the big boy on the block, but the second you’re alone and you trip up the “weak people” are going to pile on. The proper protocol in the Valley is to at least try and partner, or purchase, the startups who have innovated in a space you’re going into. It’s clear you have no intention of doing that, and hey, that’s your right!
That being said, no one trusts you any more after you screwed app developers and lifted Twitter, FourSquare, Quora and countless other startups’ innovations. There seems to be no way to work with Facebook other than “getting rolled.”