Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Facebook Gives Its Ads a Boost, Using Your Photos

Facebook is the world’s biggest photo-sharing service. And now, as the company prepares to go public, it’s looking to make a bit more money from all of that sharing, via a newly designed photo-viewer that gives ads much more prominence.

The photo-viewer started rolling out earlier this month, and appears to have been implemented widely in the last few days. Plenty of folks have noted that it’s similar to the format Google uses in Google+. I think the ad treatment is much more interesting.

Here’s the old format, via a Huffington Post screenshot:

And here’s the new one:

Those screenshots give you some idea of the new prominence the ads get, but it’s even more obvious in real life. Put it this way: I look at Facebook a lot, and I didn’t even realize that Facebook had been showing me ads when I clicked on photos. Now I can’t avoid them.

For now, that is. Entirely possible that I’ll develop the same “banner blindness” that I have for lots of other Web ads.

Also worth noting that these ads only seem to show up on photos that don’t have many comments on them. Photos that do have lots of comments display those comments instead. So if you’re looking at, say, pictures posted by Mark Zuckerberg, you won’t end up seeing ads next those images at all.

I asked Facebook reps for comment, and they offered a boilerplate response: “We’re constantly testing new designs and layouts on Facebook.”

So I’ll take the liberty of adding what they might say — if they had a beer or two and weren’t talking to a reporter: “See? This is one reason why you guys should trust us when we explain that we’re in the early stages of social advertising. If this format works, it means we’ll have opened up a huge slug of real estate we weren’t using. Boom! Instant revenue stream! And it’s also why you should just chill out about the fact that we don’t yet make any money from mobile. Of course we’re going to figure out how to put ads on your iPhone! We just haven’t gotten around to it yet.”

Thanks, imaginary slightly tipsy Facebook rep! Look forward to chatting with you again soon.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work