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The Untold History of Facebook?s Most Controversial Growth Tool

Chamath Palihapitiya
the Monthly Active User
News Feed
the News Feed

Sheryl Sandberg
Mark Zuckerberg
Naomi Gleit
Javier Olivan
Alex Schultz
Danny Ferrante
Blake Ross
Lars Backstrom
Chris Kelly
Dave Morin

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the North Star
Kashmir Hill

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Positivity     46.00%   
   Negativity   54.00%
The New York Times
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Inevitably the idea arose that Palihapitiya might join Facebook.“Growth had plateaued around 90 million people,” Zuckerberg recalls. Its impetus was to address an imperative that the Growth team’s researchers had unearthed: a new Facebook user is likely to abandon the service if he or she doesn’t connect with seven new friends — fast.Thus PYMK was essential for Facebook. Exposing potential friends is a way to improve a member’s experience; it increases the chances they will share more, and, most of all, it makes people less likely to bail on Facebook.For many people, PYMK is a welcome feature: a helpful prompt to get in touch with connections who would help them get value from their Facebook experience. Once again, Facebook would not provide an explanation.Palihapitiya now indicates that dark profiles did exist, and the Growth team took advantage of them.Neither would Facebook respond to Hill’s queries about whether PYMK’s instant suggestions for new users meant that it was storing data on people not signed up on Facebook, and making use of “shadow profiles” when someone joins. (Zuckerberg did not mention his early cogitations in the Book of Change about dark profiles.) In a more elaborate explanation provided later, Facebook said, “We do not create profiles for non-Facebook users,” though it also says it keeps certain data, like what device and operating system version a nonuser has, for things like “optimizing registration flow for the specific device” should someone decide to join.But Palihapitiya now indicates that dark profiles did exist, and the Growth team took advantage of them. As the data gets refined, Facebook uses machine learning to make the final suggestions.Backstrom also revealed that one’s behavior on PYMK helped determine which suggestions Facebook would offer — and how often it would show you the list. Since a key goal of PYMK was to boost the value of Facebook for new users — making sure that they had enough friends to fill up their News Feed — the suggestions were tilted to help those newbies more than the people they friended. Or it can show you people that are advantageous for Facebook, the system, to show you, because it increases Facebook’s value and wealth and it makes my system better.” He says that Facebook takes the latter course, benefiting itself at the expense of its users.This might give the experienced user a worse experience. It’s almost like watching a tabloid.” Morin says this semi-stalking factor “became the primary variable in PYMK.”Some people pushed back on Palihapitiya on this issue, arguing that such behavior was not Facebook-ish.

As said here by Steven Levy