The flare against Facebook has come and gone (at least until all is revealed to the general public in the upcoming film, The Social Network), and any new sites that tried to enter the "social network" space have not had a big enough impact and still, if you quickly wander through your friends of friends pages you'll see dozens and dozens, and hundreds, and thousands, if not millions of profiles still open to the public eye. Why? Why haven't they left along with all those Google employees? To start understanding this you'd have to think about the people who use Facebook.
Let's start at the top, The Retired/Elderly/Twilight Years.
If they are on Facebook they are most often there because they are excited about the booms in technology and want to be a part of it or they were already tech geeks before you had your first macbook or their children, grandchildren or savvy friends have set one up for them and taught them how to navigate around the site (unwisely).
Some rarely use the site, some enjoy it, perhaps a little too much (to the dismay of their loved ones, mostly) and some of them think it's stupid, which it kind of is.
Why are they still there? Chances are they don't read those blogs and chances are they wouldn't notice if their settings had changed anyway.
"But this is what Facebook is relying on!" Yes, well, this either gives these folk the final reason to get off the damned site OR they wouldn't quit their Facebook snooping for anybody, even if Facebook is now able to make that little ad nobody notices anyway suit their "Interests" even better. So everyone wins in this age bracket, really.
Then you have your middle-aged. The Dads, the Moms, the Career-Driven, the forever Slackers and Free Spirits.
Quite a lot of these people have blogs and some of these blogs like to continually dish up the "evil" things that Zuckerberg has done.
Why are they still there? These privacy changes haven't fazed many people because people are only getting savvier with their safety these days (and events like this only help them protect themselves further) or the people want so many friends they simply want it ALL out there, like their own Reality TV show.
Some are ONLY on Facebook because a friend has pushed them into it, and therefore they have little more than a single profile picture on their page. Remember, a lot of these people are of the generation where calling yourself Fallen_Angel74 was still popular, and the idea of putting information online was ALWAYS considered unsafe until some brave teenagers and entrepreneurs realized there was a lot of bored people out there.
Similar reasons can be argued for why the younger generation (let's group everyone under 30 together to keep it simple) are still around.
They are still here because they either already hated sites like MySpace and Facebook and only joined to appease their friends, and some think the whole idea of even being online is dangerous and are worried about giving out their full name, let alone "the private information that the changes in privacy could reveal" So, the changes do not affect them.
Then there are the "accumulators" - they just want to watch the numbers crunch over. More friends, more points in Mafia Wars, more Notifications, that's their own little thrill... or it's part of building their "Personal Brand", either way, they want people to know all about them, because they are so awesome and so their pictures and emails and locations are posted online and synced with other social networks likes Twitter and YouTube.
They see Facebook as a game, and are usually savvy enough to quickly alter any information that they only want to share with "friends." If they don't make these changes, well, our good friends at 4Chan are always around to harass them about it.
So, to reiterate, why are they still there? Because they don't care, don't log in long enough to notice or they "changed their settings as soon their friend tweeted about it... like, four months ago."
If they aren't there, the privacy issues were simply an easy rebuttal when their friends ask they why they can't find them, which means that they probably would have left eventually anyway or that Facebook had a number of equally annoying problems that caused many Facebook users to join the Group, "STOP CHANGING FACEBOOK!!!" Changing all our Interests into Fan Pages, is one good example for the many new members.
Then there is the fine line of balance. Safety, privacy and being social. It's a very hard line to walk. It is so much easier just to accept every friend request that comes your way instead of going to the profile first and checking or asking the "mutual friend" if they actually know the person or just accepted them (quite often they don't know them at all or they are simply an acquaintance.) This can get get overwhelming at times. So how does one find balance?
It is not everyone's favourite thing to do but EXPLORE THE SETTINGS on the site. You can group Strangers and block them from seeing personal notes, wall posts to friends or photos, but you can let them see your own wall posts or latest harvest on Farmville (because that's the cool thing, right?) And if you're tired of adding strangers, leave them up on your Friend Request wall until you've made your mind up about them. Don't worry about how long it takes you. Chances are they won't even say anything to you when you add them (which reminds me: when you DO add someone, post a comment on their wall, what's the point if you're not going to connect?)
One of the greatest things about MySpace was the Top 8, not only could you display your favourite friends (and cause drama along the way) but you could easily see whether they had changed their profile picture and that usually meant they had probably posted some blogs or comments, too. So, honor your old MySpace life and create a group for your Top 150 (the Dunbar's number of the maximum amount of stable social relationships a human can have.) Never again will you neglect your distant best friend because that person who knows that person you met a party once posts too many wall posts, which also leads me to my favourite and most magical, "Hide" button.
Instead of tearing out your hair whenever you see Obnoxious Friends updates about how they "Got a lot done at work today, yes!!! Making $$$." and are now "About to start packing for my trip to Barbados! I know you're jealous." Hide that stuff. You won't have to Remove them from your friends list and cause any drama or awkward stairs in the elevator, but you won't ever have to hear "Just downed a Venti Chai with real milk. Meant to get soy but forgot" ever again.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CONSUMER SIDE OF THINGS?
A lot of the shared rage some months ago was over Facebook interrupting their users activity and asking them (to put it simply), "Can we follow you around the Internet so brands/networks/periodicals can know what you are into and then we can continue building our Death Star?" You didn't have time to decide. You couldn't leave the page unless you clicked the X.
"It's now or never, folks," Facebook leered, counting its money in a dark corner somewhere. "Are you going to be a loser or are you finally going to admit that Mark was right and Privacy is dead?"
Well, what did I do? I selected, "Privacy is dead."
"BUT WHY? HOW COULD YOU. YOU'RE A SELL-OUT AT LIFE." Please. Like this makes any difference. Do I have to press the Like button on the article I just read? No. Does the site know I've been there? I'm going to go with yes. Are they using my information. I'm going to be honest and say, I don't know and most probably, yes. Do I care?
NO. Because I still have control. And those ads still need to exist so that they will stream the latest episodes of my favourite show on Hulu, on a nice high quality player with those fun dimmer buttons. I'm not quite ready to start purchasing these shows from iTunes or to start watching low-res versions of them on YouTube (something that won't be a problem for YouTube for long) and I still have my money in my pocket. I'm not about to go and buy an Old Spice stick (though I probably will when I'm older just to remember the glory days of Isaiah Mustafa) and I always aim to be an intelligent consumer (as intelligent as one could be in front of all those pretty, twinkly lightsss ooooh....what? What?) and so if ONE bloody thing could stay popular for longer than five years and not become the Former Embarrassment of my Early Internet Days, I'm staying on Facebook.
...but if someone could create something even better that'd be totally awesome.