Look at this photo. Notice something odd? (Other than the weird gaps where I’ve edited out the surnames, that is). Instead of the usual hyperlinked name “Joe Bloggs posted on your wall…” it’s instead saying “Facebook User Joe Bloggs…” now, that may seem minor; but consider this, what is the point of distinguishing the fact that someone posting something on Facebook is a “Facebook User”? Currently, the only people who can post anything on Facebook are Facebook Users. It’s needless information. And, what’s more, it wasn’t there a minute ago. This is a screenshot that I just took of my Facebook for Android application, after noticing the sudden change (previously, the application had highlighted names, like every other version of Facebook).
So, why would Facebook go to the effort of modifying their code to make this meaningless distinction? Well, it’s possible they’re doing it to distinguish between, say, people posting on my wall, and Applications/Fan Pages/&c. But this seems rather unnecessary – if I see that William Shatner (if only!) or FarmVille (gag unto me with a spoon!) has posted on my wall, I’m usually immediately aware that they’re not someone I went to high-school with.
The more likely explanation, then, is that soon people who aren’t Facebook Users will soon be able to post things on Facebook. It could be that in the near future you may see “Digg User DonkeyBites4 has posted a link on your wall…” or “YouTube User schmoyoho has posted a video to your wall…” basically, it’d be Facebook Connect, only in reverse. The motive is obvious; the more internet content drawn into Facebook, the more of your attention is captured and monetised by Facebook.
Assuming they do this, I’d lay 2:1 odds of yet another privacy debacle as they try to figure out how to manage the nightmare of managing privacy settings when linked in to multiple external websites. “Photos tagged of me are visible to users of YouTube, but not Digg, or Slashdot users with less than Excellent Karma”, anyone?
Of course, this is all speculation, based solely on what may be little more than a glitch in the Facebook client for Android – it’s not currently showing up on the desktop, mobile or touch versions of Facebook site – but then again, the Facebook Android client was just updated several times recently, and it’s possible that in the process someone accidentally left in a bit of code signalling what may just be the future.