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Facebook Makes It Official: An External Advertising Network Is Coming Soon

A view of an Apple iPad and iPhone displaying the Facebook app's splash screen
A view of an Apple iPad and iPhone displaying the Facebook app's splash screenPhotograph by Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

There’s been a lot of discussion over the past few days about the recent changes to Facebook’s privacy and governance policies—including the revelation that (gasp!) Facebook is not actually a democracy—but one element of the new rules has gotten less attention than it probably should: Namely, the giant social network is going to use the data it has about your likes and dislikes to show you ads outside of Facebook. This is the first real confirmation that the company is going to roll out an advertising network that extends beyond just its own walled garden, and it could turn out to be one of the biggest factors in the success or failure of Facebook’s revenue-growth strategy.

It’s true that the network wants to do away with the voting process it implemented as a way of improving its governance policies, which required it to get 30 percent of its users to support something before it could make a significant change. But this approach was mostly a failure before it could even get started, since the last vote the company held saw 0.03 percent of users participate—and as more than one person has pointed out, getting 30 percent of Facebook users to vote would mean 300 million people, which is more than twice as many as voted in the recent federal election in the U.S.