Can companies turn confusion into a competitive advantage? It occurred to me when attempting to explain Facebook’s Open Graph this week that the social web has become increasingly complex — relating the full implications to a broad audience is a Herculean feat.

How do you explain the Open Graph to the average user so he or she can make an informed decision? Should we take pains to differentiate between the “Open Graph API” and the “Open Graph Protocol”, or should we just gloss over the specifics to make the story halfway digestible to a reader who isn’t either a web developer or a social media professional?

Every time Facebook changes its privacy settings, we write a 500+ word post explaining what all the dials mean. Every time, it’s massively popular — Sunday’s article “HOW TO: Disable Facebook’s Instant Personalization” has more than 4500 Facebook shares. Why the high demand for an explanation of what all this stuff means?

Have the nuances of online privacy become so complex that they’re beyond the comprehension of mere mortals? I’m not saying that Facebook has any intent to cause confusion, but the complexities of the open vs closed debate and the prescriptive vs descriptive nature of the “everybody” setting effectively act to shut down public discourse.

Perhaps this paves the route to success: After all, how can anyone stop Facebook if no one understands Facebook?

Reviews: Facebook

Tags: facebook, Open Graph, privacy