As we have mentioned before, Facebook is a bit of a fluid concept. The site took one step toward world wide web domination this week as it added the "like" button to an astonishingly large number of places on its own site, and across the web. The purpose of the changes, according to Facebook is to give users a more personalized experience. A co-incidental side-effect will be that the advertisements (Facebook's primary source of income) will also be more personalized.
One thing to be aware of is that if you are signed into Facebook as you browse the web, anything you "like" or "recommend," will be logged, and any of your friends who may also visit those sites you have visited will also know you've been there. For example, I visited CNN.com, today, and was immediately able to see which of my Facebook friends had liked and recommended which stories on CNN's site. There was no potentially embarrassing information revealed through this particular transaction, but in some cases, some users may not want everyone on his Facebook friends' list to be aware of every site he has visited, liked, and recommended something (think about photo sites, video sites, specific-taste humor sites, dating sites...etc.).
So, what if you want to keep your surfing activity private? One option is to stay signed out of Facebook, whenever you're not on the site. If you're like me, however, you won't remember to do this. Another option is to remember not to "like" or "recommend," any stories - unlike Google, which relies heavily on browser cookies, Facebook is (at least for now), relying on your specifically marking that you "like" something to count it as a "like." But that's no fun. In some cases, you may want to recommend some items to some of your Facebook friends. A third option (the one I'm currently using) is to adjust your Facebook settings. To do this, sign into Facebook, and click on "Account," in the top right part of the screen. Then, click on "Privacy Settings," then "Applications and Settings," then uncheck, "Instant Personalization," (which is checked, by default).
This minor adjustment in your privacy settings will allow you to go back to the "old fashioned" (circa early 2010) way of sharing items you find on the web on Facebook - by selectively posting links (either manually, or using a browser or site button) and choosing which of your friends/groups of friends can see the links you post.
Jennifer Pointer (e-mail) is a trainer and tech writer in Tulsa, OK. She promotes a simple, a low-tech approach to effective online profile management, search engine optimization and social networking. Her weakness is the mocha frappuccino.