We are the Product. Not the Customer.

Poking, tagging, liking and becoming a farmer seems to be a trend that never stops growing. Evidently, Zukerberg and his team at a threshold high and have no plans on going slow. With competition rising from Google’s +1, the question remains, how did we all get here?

Back in the day when we had access to the web, information and live communication were the only features on hand. Sure, there were a lot of untapped resources but those remained aspects that never touched the consumer market till late 2005. As the US began implementing social metrics with communication channels such as Yahoo and MSN, it was only a matter of time that groups, clubs and troupes started expanding their presence in an untouchable world. Suddenly, the internet was buzzing with Friendster, MySpace and Orkut.

Social networking now became the biggest fad with users sending invites to everyone they knew and people they wanted to know. Immediately, connections were made and people had a much more user-friendly way to communicate, catch up with long lost friends, date and, not forgetting, exploit the system. When the first generation of networking began, Yahoo and MSN with their messenger service had complete control of the market. However, by the end of 2006, social profiling was the new tool to communication.

With reasons unexplained, everyone wanted to share what they were doing, where they stayed, who they were dating and what pets they had. Private information was exposed, users were vulnerable to things they could never imagine and every system’s privacy policy took a back seat. Just when system engineers believed that they have found this generation’s new online statement, one kid with an undying ego to take revenge was sitting in his dorm room sipping down a beer and coding the world’s next addiction.

Today, Facebook is home to more than 800 million users around the world. I can’t seem to find one person in society, irrespective of age, that has never heard of the social network. The platform has been home to users, gamers, marketers and pranksters. Interestingly, an average user has around 130 friends out of which 900 million interactions take place on groups, pages and events. If you thought that privacy would never be a concern, there has been an estimate that users upload nearly 250 million bytes of personal data every day. With applications available on every operating system, Facebook has sincerely grown to become an addiction that no other online entity in the world has come close to achieving. It’s a paradise for marketing gurus and mint press for the Facebook team.

When I read some stats about people obsessed with Facebook, I was not surprised to know that 1 out of 13 people in the world are logged into the system every day. Nearly 48% of people wake up in the morning to check their accounts. Now, don’t get me wrong. Networking is great. Particularly when it opens up the doors to things that we may never have the opportunity to experience. My concern is what happens when contemplation strikes in?

Do people really need to update their Facebook accounts and sync them with FourSquare, Twitter, Reddit and the works? Do I really need to know why my friend prefers pink socks compared to white? Do I really care that you may like chocolate chip cookies rather than oatmeal? I’m not sold. However, others definitely are. Psychology has its role, socializing has its role but what about privacy? Are we not worried about our personal data being stored in the cloud while we disregard terms of usage policies that we never read?

At the end of the day, not everyone realizes that on Facebook or any other social networking system, we are the product, not the users. Why would any company that plans on being successful give up its product?