I give Facebook a lot of crap. But I don't think their latest privacy changes are all that nefarious. It's pretty obvious what they are doing. They want search inventory to sell to Google and Microsoft. They want to be as cool as Twitter.
I think the more important story is that they are turning their square into a triangle.
A well placed friend of mine (who shall remain nameless) gave me this metaphor (I will try not to butcher it too much).
Twitter is like a triangle. Small group of people (on top) broadcasting to a large group of people down bottom.
Facebook is/was more like a square. Everyone communicating more or less as equal peers (at least on their own personal profile pages).
This is very rare on the internet. It's rare anywhere really. It's unusual to have a platform that encourages so much 'public' peer-2-peer participation.
It's clear, however, that Facebook is trying to have its cake and eat it too. They want to be a triangle for those who want one, and a square for those who want one of those.
Will it work? Maybe. They are a 'Social Utility' after all. They have never thought of themselves as a vertical social network with a static social contract. As I've said before, their ability to change and evolve at scale is beyond impressive. It has never been seen before.
From College kid profile pages, to app platform, to stream platform, to stream platform with deep identity and routing. Their flexibility, rate of change and reinvention is staggering. They put Madonna and Michael Jackson to shame.
Ultimately Facebook wants to be the Microsoft Outlook and Google Adsense of the Social Web all rolled into one. Maybe throw some PayPal in for good measure.
To do this I think you will see them continue to provide square or triangle options for their users (with their own personal bias towards triangles) and deprecate legacy parts of their system like canvas pages and groups.
Ultimately, though, the real opportunity is to look beyond the public vs. private debate and observe the 'Multiple Publics' that Danah Boyd and Kevin Marks speak about. But that's a post for another day.
Is this good or bad for us? I'm not sure it matters. It's another big bet for the company though, and it was a necessary step to clean up the half steps that resulted in privacy setting hell on the service so far.