Facebook is to launch an advertising system that will allow marketers to target users with ads based on the large amounts of information people freely provide about themselves on the site.
The US-based social-networking website hopes to eventually produce a system that predicts what products and services users might be interested in, even before they have specifically mentioned an interest, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. The company reportedly aims to accomplish what Google did with AdWords, which allows anyone to place ads next to search results by buying keywords online.
Facebook's proposed service would let advertisers visit a website to choose a wider variety of characteristics for the users who should see their ads, such as favourite activities and preferred music.
However, advertisers would not be able to access personal information about the Facebook users.
These ads would appear on the "news feed" of each user's page and not as on banner ads and boxed flyers that appear on the borders of the site at present.
Although plans are at an early stage, Facebook plans to unveil a basic version of the new service later this year, which could be a major hit with advertisers.
Earlier this month, UK advertisers including Vodafone, First Direct and the Central Office of Information pulled their ads from Facebook after they were placed on the British National Party's profile page.
Facebook subsequently designed a blocking feature that allows advertisers to opt out of parts of the site.
UK advertisers can now avoid appearing next to listings for the estimated 6m user groups on Facebook.
The move has been backed by ISBA, the voice of British advertisers.
The blocking feature, which will be offered to international advertisers at a later date, was a swift response to market concerns about buying space on social networking websites "blind" through media buying agencies.
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