UPDATE: Good news. As we suspected, these ad units are not “real.” A Facebook press person tells us that these ads are not Facebook ad units. Rather, they are the result of the New Zealand Facebook user’s computer being infected with “malware.” Facebook has a page dedicated to helping users deal with issues like these.
Here’s a statement from Facebook about malware:
These programs claim to give users special privileges on Facebook, but obscure your profile and News Feed with ads that are not Facebook approved. In fact, over 90% of the ad complaints we receive on a daily basis are related to adware programs and the ads they display. These programs materially alter people’s Facebook experience and bypass Facebook’s quality and security controls. Additionally, adware programs make Facebook slower, cause user confusion and can obfuscate authenticate user content by displaying banner ads. To ensure the best possible experience for all our users and to maintain the integrity of Facebook’s product we have asked users to remove these adware products from their browsers before returning to Facebook.
EARLIER: A TechCrunch reader in New Zealand went to Facebook today and found a bunch of really huge ad units on the screen – one on the left, where Facebook navigation links typically are, and a couple in the News Feed, where updates from friends go.
A Facebook engineer left a comment on Ingrid Lunden’s TechCrunch article saying the ads were not real.
“This is adware for sure. Facebook would never have banner ads placed in between newsfeed or on the left hand side.”
But then the Facebook engineer deleted his comment.
We’ve got a note out to Facebook PR asking if these units are legit.
In the meantime, our guess is that the ads are not real and that the Facebook engineer deleted his comments because people at that company are careful about not speaking to the press without authorization.
The only reasons to believe the ads are real are that …
- New Zealand is one of Facebook’s favourite places to test out new products before launching them in the US.
- Facebook is planning to put more ads into the News Feed.
- Facebook very badly needs to start accelerating its ad revenue growth again, and sticking a huge unit on the screen would do that, however clumsily.
- This is just a test. Maybe Facebook wants to know what it’s like to serve up huge ads in a small market, so it can rule out doing them worldwide.
The reason not to believe these ads are real is simple: They look like something News Corp. would have done with Myspace to squeeze every last penny out. Huge interruptive ads are something Mark Zuckerberg has always resisted.