Facebook today adjusted their privacy settings (and got rid of regional networks, a feature that most of us forgot was a part of the social network). The press release came across the wires this morning, and the bottom line is that this will have far reaching and reverberating effects across the social web, giving Twitter a true competitor for control over the real time web.
Here’s why: Facebook is making it much more easy by default to mark all updates to your network as completely public, and not just to everyone you follow, but the to entire Internet.
Back during the acquisition of Friendfeed by Facebook, I lamented the impending death of Friendfeed primarily on the grounds that this killed any chance we had for a truly searchable real time web index. By making personal timelines public, Facebook has now two pieces of the three pieces required to take the true value of Friendfeed to the mainstream masses.
The first component was actually being able to search public timelines, a feature that came online shortly after the Friendfeed acquisition. The second component is this: making public the default.
The third (and most critical piece for this to truly work) will be the rise of or emphasis on app or built-in functionality that syndicates content from other social networks. Most major social websites already do this by default with their Facebook applications, but seeking out each application they use and then hooking it into their public timeline is a lot less likely to happen than if Facebook provided a Friendfeed-like box of the most popular applications, and a simple blank that helped them hook it up to their Facebook account.
It’s funny that Facebook is actually behind the eightball on this, and that Bing and Google both implemented search with Real-Time components before Facebook could execute public-facing real-time search. Once Facebook gets done with these puzzle pieces, though, they’ll have a search engine at their disposal (one that they can turn on for the public to use regardless of whether they have a Facebook account) that could genuinely give Google a run for it’s money.