Americans (try to) back away from Facebook

Andrew Perrin from the Pew Research Center:

Just over half of Facebook users ages 18 and older (54%) say they have adjusted their privacy settings in the past 12 months, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Around four-in-ten (42%) say they have taken a break from checking the platform for a period of several weeks or more, while around a quarter (26%) say they have deleted the Facebook app from their cellphone. All told, some 74% of Facebook users say they have taken at least one of these three actions in the past year.

I have anecdotally seen this myself. People I know are posting less and checking in less than they ever have before, although no one has actually disabled or deleted their accounts. They all log back in eventually.

Hamza Shaban at The Washington Post digs a little deeper:

Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at eMarketer, said that the survey rings true with the public backlash over Facebook’s data privacy scandals and with continued concerns over false news reports, election meddling, and negativity on the platform…

Williamson noted that other research has not supported the case that Facebook is shedding users and that it’s possible users who have shunned the app later returned to it.

“Surveys are a good barometer of how people are feeling, but at the end of the day, it’s really hard to let go completely,” she said. “If you take a break you feel like you missed something.”

What you get for $1 billion

Yesterday was a big day for small fish getting big paychecks.  OK, it’s not entirely fair to think of AOL as a small fish, but there it is.  Microsoft paid a hefty premium for a pile of AOL patents, and the New York Times deciphers the sale:

Microsoft has used its deep stockpile of computing patents to prod smartphone makers to pay it licensing fees. So, analysts say, adding more patents promises to strengthen its negotiating and legal position with rivals like Google and Apple — and handset makers using Google’s Android software including HTC, Samsung and LG.

So it’s a defensive move, and gives Redmond a big legal club to swing.  It seemingly has nothing to do with innovation or bringing new products to the marketplace.  Meanwhile, Facebook yesterday decided to snap up Instagram, the photo sharing startup with a handful of employees and a popular mobile app for iOS and Android.  Instagram has 30 million users, over a billion photos, but no revenue stream.  Why the hefty price?  Om Malik on GigaOM:

…if there was any competitor that could give Zuckerberg heartburn, it was Systrom’s posse. They are growing like mad on mobile, and Facebook’s mobile platform (including its app) is mediocre at best. Why? Facebook is not a mobile-first company and they don’t think from the mobile-first perspective. Facebook’s internal ideology is that of a desktop-centric Internet company.

The Facebook mobile offerings do strike me as lackluster, and the consumer rush away from traditional desktop systems for their social networking needs is the cause for Facebook’s concern.  Instagram users are passionate about that platform, but I can’t say I meet many people who have that same fever for Facebook these days.  I could certainly see Instagram rising as the natural Facebook alternative in the coming years, and Zuckerberg wants to keep those switchers in his tent.  It will be interesting to see if Facebook will stick with the claim that they will keep the two entities separate from each other, and not roll one into the other.