Mafia Wars. FarmVille. YoVille. PetSociety. Hot or Not. Texas Hold 'Em.
Many of you will have played, or seen updates from your friends on the above games - they represent some of the most popular applications on Facebook. Some of my friends talk about "lost weekends" with various Facebook games, where they get so involved in online play, hours or days go by without pause - and as a result, my news feed is peppered with evidence of their progress in this month's hottest game.
While many organizations work to embrace social networks to better get their message out, reach new and existing customers, burnish their brand, and discover trends - social networks present significant risks. We've discussed the risks extensively (and so have our customers), and have postulated that to enable business, and mitigate risk, organizations need a lighter touch - beyond just block or allow, to include limit by function, limit by user/group, scan for threats/confidential data, or shape (throttle, prioritize).
Yesterday, with the latest content update for our next-generation firewalls, we refined our control of one of the social networks - Facebook - to include additional control over applications. So customers can, in firewall policy, control access to Facebook as a whole, but also Facebook Apps, Facebook Chat, and Facebook Mail independently. Meaning that enabling Facebook for business purposes (the aforementioned inbound and outbound marketing benefits, the customer touch benefits, etc.) is even easier. Furthermore, the fine-grained control over certain elements means that organizations can, if they so choose, eliminate access to huge productivity sinks - like all of the various Facebook games. For example, an organization could enable marketing and sales folks to have access to Facebook and Facebook Mail for marketing and customer interaction purposes, but disable access to Facebook Chat and Facebook Apps for productivity reasons. So in my example, the people that needed the application for business reasons have exactly what they need, but the organization is not carrying unnecessary risk.
Besides, if I see one more message my news feed about FarmVille or Mafia Wars, I think I'm going to have to "ice" somebody...