There is an interesting short post at one of the NY Times blogs about the evolution of beacon, Facebooks new project to include behaviour on third party sites within the news feed and profile. They show different types of popups of how Facebook alerted their users in a more or less obvious fashion about including third party information on their feed.

It started with a popup merely stating the fact, that the information will be passed on. Not reacting to it was assumed as approval. It disappeared after a short while and if you missed it, you „approved“ of the information transfer. Later versions included opt-outs, opt-ins, etc.

Facebook executives tell reporters that users who ignore the alert boxes will no longer be considered to have said “yes,” even after two days. If users ignore the alert box, Facebook says it will not post the news of their purchases to their friends. This is a big change, if implemented correctly. Users will still be hassled by the alert boxes from Facebook on its partner sites, but ideally they can ignore them now and not worry about their purchases being shared.

Facebook executives say they do not want to add a universal opt-out button because then users would not be able to try out Beacon on different sites to see what it can offer. One Facebook executive predicts that consumers may “fall in love” with Beacon once they understand it. Only time will tell.

A very broad prediction, which I don’t believe. But we’ll see.

It’s amazing that facebook started with such an opt-out clause – including the fact that you only had a few seconds to opt-out until the popup would disappear. Now I know that in the US, opt-out is legally viable, which it isn’t in Germany. Here in Germany, nobody would have even considered opt-out in the first place.

But that doesn’t make it an „American approach“ per se. I think, it rather looks like an amateurish approach to treat users in that way and I am not surprised that they changed it to the later versions. I would have assumed that they start with the opt-in approach right away, thinking user-centric instead of brand-centric. But hey.