There is no escaping Facebook’s advertising reach. The social network has announced that it will now be foisting ads on to every single person who uses third-party sites that are signed up to its advertising scheme, regardless of whether the user has a Facebook account or not.
Until now, Facebook showed ads only to its members when people landed on third-party sites that were signed up to its Audience Network ad system. That meant that it only ever bothered tracking what Facebook users did, in order to learn about them and better target advertising.
Now, though, reports the Wall Street Journal, it will use the same techniques—largely plug-in and cookies, but also Like buttons too— in order to track what everyone does when visiting those web pages. Andrew Bosworth, vice president of Facebook’s ads and business platform, explained to the Journal:
“Our buttons and plugins send over basic information about users’ browsing sessions. For non-Facebook members, previously we didn’t use it. Now we’ll use it to better understand how to target those people.”
It’s not a new model, and it’s one you’re used to already. Say you’ve spent 20 minutes browsing for a new pair of sneakers: Facebook knows you’re interested in sneakers, so plasters ads for them all over the cookery website that you’re using to look up a dinner recipe.
So it’s not innovation—but Facebook has a huge dataset of intimate personal details behind it that it can leverage to do all kinds of clever things. “Because we have a core audience of over a billion people... who we... understand,” explained Bosworth to the Journal, “we have a greater opportunity than other companies using the same type of mechanism.”
In other words, Facebook plans to square up more firmly than ever against Google in the world of online advertising. And now, there’s no way to avoid the reach of Zuck’s promotions.