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Guarding Your Magic Kingdom

Our friends at Facebook just re-jiggered the individual privacy settings that most of us FB addicts are only vaguely aware of and have never bothered to look at. It’s time to look now, and if you have kids, for God’s sake make them look too. As a general matter, the changes are a good thing. You can customize who can see what parts of your Facebook world, with a dozen or so categories of information (posts, profile, messages, etc.) and varying levels of access and privacy (from nobody to everybody).

When this was announced last week, a problem I found was that the new default settings placed on my account allowed some of my stuff to be visible to the entire world, where the stuff will be indexed and viewable with a simple Google search. Previously, anything I put on Facebook was accessible only by my “friends,” those lucky people that I allow into my magic kingdom. Now, this change really annoyed me because I don’t necessarily want the whole freakin’ world to see the often extemporaneous nonsense I post on Facebook. I quickly went in and changed all the default settings to “friends only.”

Then I thought, holy cripes, kids. All of a sudden all these kids—millions and millions of them—have all their FB stuff viewable to everybody? That’s insane.

There have been volumes written about kids and the Internet, about how social networking sites are playgrounds for predators and perverts, how kids don’t appreciate the fact that Internet posts last forever, etc. Some of what I’ve read is shrill and hysterical, but the fact remains that kids need to be careful with what they put, and who they talk to, on the Internet. Because stuff can and does get weird out there and parents need to be the ones to tell them.

I read that Facebook tweaked its new privacy settings system a couple of times after the initial change, but, having already played around with my settings, I don’t know what those changes consisted of. Maybe they fixed it. But regardless, if you have a kid, chances are your kid is on Facebook. Even if little Buster or Cupcake refuses to “friend” you (and can you blame them?), you need to at least have one of those “little talks” with them about privacy settings. At the very least, your kid can figure it all out and then explain what the hell’s going on with Facebook to you. It’ll be a bonding thing.

Moving on! Over the past year, we’ve noted that the way we consume music is changing rapidly. CDs are ceding quickly to digital downloads, and a lot of smart money is riding on the popularity of downloads fading in the very near future, giving way to “cloud”-based streaming services where vast libraries of music will be available by subscription, where you can simply dial up your playlist and listen via an “always-on” wireless connection.

Now, the issues standing in the way of this include the need for ubiquitous wireless services (out here in the Berkshires, we’re a long, long way from that), devices that can handle streaming (hello, smartphones), price points (Is $5 per month too much? Is $14 per month too little?), and consumer acceptance (kids don’t seem to care, but my fetishistic generation likes to own things).

So far, there’s only been a little rustling of activity on this front in the United States. Rhapsody offers a streaming service that is worshipped by people who use it, but has yet to gain real serious commercial traction. Pandora, which chooses music for you based on your tastes, also has its rabid devotees. MOG just unrolled a service with a $5 per month tier that is definitely a contender. And everybody is waiting with baited breath for Spotify, which is insanely popular in the United Kingdom and Europe, to clear a couple of licensing hurdles and arrive here.

So it was significant, to say the least, but not at all surprising, that Apple announced last week that it had bought LaLa, a lesser but highly respected player in the music streaming space. You know what this means. Apple already has by far the biggest, most-frequented digital music store. Apple also has by far the most popular smartphone. And neither of these things had much to do with what has been for years Apple’s core business (oops, inadvertent pun), making computers. But the company has this ability to enter a commercial arena and immediately dominate it.

And they’re going to do it again. Sometime in 2010, and probably sooner rather than later, Apple will roll out a new feature within the iTunes environment that will incorporate the LaLa technology and will provide a seamless, effortless and satisfying streaming listening experience.

And nothing will be the same after that.

—Paul Rapp

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