Facebook’s spreading reach on the Internet is disconcerting – The Royal Gazette | Bermuda News, Business, Sports, Events, & Community

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Facebook’s spreading reach on the Internet is disconcerting

It is more than a bit disconcerting to go to my favourite sites and see the names of people whom I connect with on Facebook appear in little tucked away boxes on the page. This is really the end of privacy as I know it, seeing the trails of my Facebook connections across the web. It's called Facebook Connect, a tracking application that has been around since 2007 and has since been added to many sites as more people have moved on to the social networking site. There are lots of reasons why this kind of tracking can be useful to avid social networkers, but in the end, the aim is to sell things to you around the preferences of your cluster of Facebook friends. I guess I had not noticed it before, but now I do as more sites install the application. To turn it off, go into your privacy settings in Facebook and disable. It's that simple, while you can still do so. Perhaps in the future, this kind of tracking will become commonplace, but for now the 'off' button is my preference. As a good article on data mining published last week on Time.com says: 'You know how everything has seemed free for the past few years? It wasn't. It's just that no one told you that instead of using money, you were paying with your personal information.'

Top sites While many of us are familiar with the world's top sites, it is only through the lens of English-language sites. One way to get another view of the Internet is to track sites through Google's '1000 most visited sites on the Internet', offered by Google-owned Double Click Ad Planner. Who's up, who's down, and who might be the next Internet giant is tracked assiduously by advertisers. The list excludes Google's sites, adult sites, ad networks, and ones that don't have publicly visible content or don't load properly. All the familiar ones are at the top, headed by Facebook with 590 million unique visitors in January 2011, followed by YouTube (500m), Yahoo (400m), Windows Live at live.com (340m) and Wikipedia (280m). Facebook's dominance underscores its reach 38% of the Internet and growing and its stickiness (840 billion page views). Wikipedia stands out for being the only one in the top 10 sites to not take advertising. Jimmy Wales, its founder, has the noble aim of keeping it honest as a source by not accepting advertising. The top five are followed by other familiar sites and then China starts to dominate. For example Baird (7th on the hit list) is a Chinese search engine that also offers multimedia content while qq.com (9th) provides instant messaging in China, hosting what Wikipedia says might be the world's largest online community. Taobao (13) is the country's largest online auction and shopping site. Soso.com (16) is a search engine owned by the same group that holds qq.com. Sohu.com is a Chinese search engine, holding 19th spot, with 81 million unique visitors.

Japan There is no way I want to trivialise the suffering the Japanese are undergoing in the wake of the earthquake by commenting on what for now is a side issue, but I want to note how the Internet has added immediate texture to our ability to understand better what they are going through. People have managed to get incredible video footage out to sites like YouTube, where they have been picked up by the news organisations. Facebook and Twitter have become news sources, directly from those who continue to report on events and their lives. At one time, 1,200 tweets a minute were coming out of Tokyo alone. The ability to see NHK TV, Japan's national public broadcaster, via the internet, also gives us a unique Japanese perspective, rather than one filtered by broadcasters like CNN. Google has jumped into the mix by launching a version of its Person Finder service for those needing to get reunited. The service is a directory and message board and can be embedded on websites and social network pages.

Send any comments to elamin.ahmed[AT]gmail.com

Giant influence: Facebook is becoming omnipresent on the web, with users finding their friends faces popping up on other sites they visit.