Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg went in front of the world's media this morning and grudgingly announced roll backs on some of the biggest and most controversial changes to the site's privacy settings made since December. The default setting for most content published on Facebook has not changed. It remains public - unlike the private nature of the site when hundreds of millions of people signed up - but control over a few key settings are now being shifted back into the hands of users.
Users are now allowed to hide their friends list and their list of interest pages from the public at large. They are also able to opt-out of "instant personalization" and the entire platform of apps and games with just one or two clicks. These are big changes.
When Facebook shifted its default setting for posted content from private to public in December, the company cited some absurd reasons for making that change: the popularity of reality TV, the fact that people post more comments online than used to write letters to the editor of their local paper, etc.
The public default was obnoxious, but making the pages people subscribe to in their newsfeeds irretrievably public was downright wrong. If you were a fan of the "I'm secretly gay and no one at work knows it" page on Facebook, everyone knew it as of December and there was no way to limit exposure of that to trusted friends.
Now that's changed and users will be able to keep those pages private.
The ability to hide your list of friends from the world at large was something Facebook took away in December as well. After a day of outrage, the company quickly changed the policy to allow users to hide friends lists from human eyes - though not from programmatic access by computers.
That's now changed and friends lists should be able to be kept private again.
Time will tell just exactly how this is all implemented, how long it stays that way and what it feels like. Zuckerberg's tone in the press call (smug, disingenuous, defiant while ostensibly apologizing) wasn't promising. But so be it. Let's see what happens. Zuckerberg says this is the end of the overhaul they are doing. The company's blog post about these changes is here.