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Facebook Quitters Create an Opportunity

If search results are any indication, more people are looking for ways to shut down their Facebook profiles. A start-up called Diaspora aims to take advantage of the trend.

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Will a trend towards quitting Facebook gather steam and roil the social-marketing world?

Consider: If you type "how do I" into Google and the Google Suggest function – the drop-down box which works based on popularity surges – seems to think you might want to know "How do I quit Facebook?" (The phrase appears fourth on the list, after "How do I find my IP address?", "How do I know if I'm pregnant?", and "How do I delete Google history?") According to Information Week, the phrase "how to quit Facebook" generated 16.9 million results in a Google search Tuesday morning, while "how do I delete my Facebook account" produced 15.9 million links.

It's hard to say if the would-be quitters are spurred by concerns about privacy or just the amount of time they're spending on the social networking site. But if the industry boldface names bidding farewell to Facebook are any indication, it's largely the former. Google Webspam head Matt Cutts de-friended Facebook April 22, telling his followers on Twitter: "I just deactivated my Facebook account using the guide [here]. Not hard to do & you can still revive it later."

Later Cutts explained (via Tweet): "I never logged in that much, plus walking all the options to prevent sharing got old. Then the opt-out was annoying." He pointed out that he'd done 7,423 tweets over the years and 0 Facebook status updates. (Cutts took pains to explain that his decision was personal – not a reflection of Google.)

Gizmodo founder Peter Rojas also tweeted his decision to cut the Facebook cord, citing his annoyance with privacy settings that required constant monitoring.

Meanwhile, the New York Times home page Wednesday prominently displayed an article about a quartet of New York University computer science students who are launching Diaspora, a kind of anti-Facebook.

Hoping to create a network that would restore users' control of their online identity, the group set itself the goal of raising $10,000 in funding in 39 days. (To fundraise, they used Kickstarter, itself a year old start-up.)

It took just 12 days for the group to hit its target. As of Tuesday – two and a half weeks after the founders announced the project – they'd raised $23,676 from 739 investors. They estimate they know only about 2 or 3 percent of the backers.

Reconsidering your own Facebook strategy? Keep in mind the backlash comes on the heels of several Facebook highs: In March, the social networking site topped Google to win the title of most visited site in the U.S. Research firm Hitwise also pronounced Facebook's users more loyal than those of Google News. And Tuesday it was announced that the site topped Yahoo! as the web's top publisher of ads in the first quarter of 2010. 

Last updated: May 13, 2010

COURTNEY RUBIN

Inc. contributing editor Courtney Rubin was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.




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