Facebook.com, the United States’ number-two social networking site behind uber-popular MySpace.com, found itself in hot water with upwards of half a million of its total 9.5 million users this week after making a number of modifications to its site that enable members to more easily track each other, among other things, Reuters reports via WashingtonPost.com.
Facebook’s user base is made up of mostly college students, as it initially restricted site registration to people with “.edu” e-mail addresses—or addresses associated with an academic entity, according to Reuters. Just four months ago, the site decided to offer membership to some specific parties, including a handful of major firms, nonprofits and members of the U.S. armed services, Reuters reports. Roughly 15,000 of these organizations are now able to receive Facebook membership accounts, Reuters reports.
On Wednesday evening, some 500,000 Facebook users signed a “Students Against Facebook News Feed” petition, requesting the removal of the new News Feed feature, which notifies users of any changes made to friends’ pages, according to Reuters.
Palo Alto, Calif.-based Facebook made the controversial changes to its site on Monday, and in addition to the News Feed feature, the site made modifications that make it easier for people to gather information on other Facebook users regarding their political preferences and dating status, Reuters reports.
The Facebook backlash is notable because of the quickness with which a petition was drafted and circulated—as well as the speed at which related sites started popping up on the Web—and the sheer number of people who became involved over just a matter of days.
Mark Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook in 2004 while attending Harvard University, wrote a posting on the site on Tuesday to address the user reaction, according to Reuters.
“Calm down. Breathe. We hear you,” he wrote, Reuters reports. “We think they are great products, but we know that many of you are not immediate fans, and have found them overwhelming and cluttered. Other people are concerned that non-friends can see too much about them.”
The backlash comes on the heels of a number of highly publicized privacy scares and data breaches—some involving MySpace.com—in which personal information was compromised and in some case assaults perpetrated on victims located via social networking sites.
One of the protest sites to emerge on the Internet is calling for a Sept. 12 boycott of Facebook.
Facebook has about a 10th of the users that rival MySpace.com has, Reuters reports.