Facebook Jumps the Shark

The hullaballoo over the Facebook redesign has reached Threat Level Red; in its latest issue, Entertainment Weekly likens it to New Coke and Betamax. Ouch. When a mainstream entertainment magazine is taking jabs at your user interface, you can be sure of two things: 1) nothing you do escapes notice and 2) you screwed up.

The official poll on Facebook has now reached 1.2 million thumbs down. The comments generally fall into three main categories. There’s the “If I wanted to be on Twitter, I’d sign up for Twitter” contingent, the “Where the hell did everything go?” camp, and those that think, “It’s too much information I don’t need and not enough that I do.”  But perhaps it’s summed up best by  Tom Henderson of ExtremeLabs, who simply said, “No soul.”

Whatever your individual nits, the consensus is that Facebook is turning into something the majority is not entirely happy with. And in the democratized world of the Internet these days, the majority expects to be heard.  The question is whether, and how, Facebook will respond. They’ve made mistakes before and backtracked somewhat (see Beacon). But they’ve also faced a loud outcry before and ignored it (see News Feed). Perhaps the more appropriate question is this: if they ignore us, will users retaliate and leave? Or are we too deeply entrenched in the site to walk away?

Robert Scoble is of the opinion that Facebook should turn a deaf ear to its hapless users, who wouldn’t know a good business model if it bit them in the rump. I’m paraphrasing a bit, so will let Robert sum it up for you:

Zuckerberg is not listening to you because you don’t get how Facebook is going to make billions.

I’d wager every last cent to my name that 99.9% of my friends on Facebook don’t care one whit about Facebook’s business model. They’re consumers – they use a service because it benefits them in some way. Do you use Crest because you like its business strategy? Do you watch NBC because it has great ad sales?  Are you on Twitter because you like its business model? (Impossible – they don’t have one. Cue rimshot.) The answer to these questions is of course no. Brand loyalty is established because consumers develop an affinity for the user interface: I like the way Crest tastes, I like NBC’s programming, etc. While there are cases in which business strategy comes into play in buying decisions, those are generally from a negative angle, i.e, I don’t like Wal-Mart’s business strategy, so I don’t shop there.

If users leave Facebook, it will be for one reason only: they’re no longer enjoying the user experience. “Here’s how we’ll look in five years” has zero interest to mainstream consumers. So my advice to Mark Zuckerberg – because I know you’re not hearing enough – is to ignore Robert Scoble. And if Valleywag tipsters are to be believed, ignore your own advice. When over one million of your users are complaining, they may be on to something. Companies who listen to their customers are rewarded handsomely in the long run. Companies who don’t, lose them.

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10 Comments »

  1. I’m with Scoble on this one. Facebook users have complained about every single change facebook has ever made… right up until the point where they embraced it.

    If there’s a third thing that criticism in a mainstream entertainment magazine means, it’s that you’ve caught the tail of a mass market tiger it’s going to be hard to screw up.

    • carlacthompson said

      But just because users have complained in the past doesn’t mean they’re wrong this time. The News Feed was a big one and of course we know how that turned out. But FB was forced to do some rethinking around Beacon because of customer complaint and are better for it now. Whether the redesign was a right or wrong decision is almost beside the point now. As I see it, the issue is whether companies should listen to their customers – something I really can’t believe is even a question.

  2. olivergassner said

    To expand on that:

    If, some day FB changes something and NOBODY complains. THEN they have a problem, cause nobody cares.

    Heard anyone complain about changes in FRiendster, Yahoo360 or Orkut, lately?

    See?

  3. JimForbes said

    I’d wager every last cent to my name that 99.9% of my friends on Facebook don’t care one whit about Facebook’s business model. They’re consumers – they use a service because it benefits them in some way. Do you use Crest because you like its business strategy? Do you watch NBC because it has great ad sales? Are you on Twitter because you like its business model? (Impossible – they don’t have one. Cue rimshot.) The answer to these questions is of course no.
    Carla, there is much more and far deeper reasons for brand loyalty than this. Chief among them is because a product or service iw widely available and serves a perceived purpose. on a slight lesser tier is “trust” and on this level I believe Facebook fails.
    In our business reality sphere “trust” equals perceived longevity which is tied directly to “what’s the business model?
    yYou or I may not like it but that’s a fact of life for technology companies in today’s world.
    nice zingy post with plenty o’ meaty goodness, Carla.
    best,
    jim forbes

  4. […] Further Reading: The Scobleizer made a post with further/similar information: Why Facebook has never listened and why it won’t start now. And over on The Guidewire Facebook Jumps the Shark. […]

  5. freeryan said

    I think the majority of users on Facebook don’t necessarily “get” the future path of Web 2.0 nor are they interested in fixing something that in their opinion isn’t broken. Most of those users don’t know they can create lists and customize their home feed. FB certainly has some kinks in the new design to work out, but I think they’re on the right path.

  6. How many quit the service over this? I don’t very many if any at all.

  7. […] Facebook Jumps the Shark « The Guidewire (tags: icommented facebook) […]

  8. Ulrike Meinhof said

    @freeryan “Most of those users don’t know they can create lists and customize their home feed.”

    Honestly, how often do these untruths need to be aired out?

    You know very well that these “lists” you’re speaking out only allow you to organize your friends into groups. But it’s *what* is being fed into the damn feed itself by the friends that’s the problem, man. It’s crap. You can file and organize and create lists all you want, but you’re just re-organizing a stream of things you don’t want to see but cannot control. Further, Facebook has taken about five or six crucial things out of the feed itself — they’re just no longer there. For most people, these things were a vital part of being on FB.

    As for “customize their home feed,” you’re basically saying the same thing as creating lists of friends. You certainly can’t “customize” in the way that you once could. A great deal of customization has been taken out of the hands of FB users. This is what they’re pissed about.

    It’s pointless to continue to combat mis-statements like yours, I suppose, because at a basic level you’re simply repeating FB’s corporate line. But you don’t show any actual familiarity with the issue itself.

  9. Ulrike Meinhof said

    This is not to say that you’re not familiar with FB and social media — of course you are; I looked at your site — but only with the complaints of FB’s users, which you’re just not presenting fairly.

    I’ve yet to see one of the elites — those bloggers looking down their noses on FB’s users, who apparently use the site only to upload photos of their children to share with one another — actually answer the complaints of these users.

    Why is FB controlling what goes into the stream? Why won’t they allow users the choice of what they see in the stream (such as friends making new friends, events they’re attending) as well as the size and format in which it appears? Why was the “slider” bar removed?

    You can talk all you want about “consuming content,” and all of the fashionable buzzwords that will sound absolutely silly in three or four years. The bottom line is that what FB did was highly, highly undemocratic, and is not geared toward the “consumer” at all nor toward increasing content. It’s cutting down the amount of information being shared, not increasing it. Demonstrate to me that it’s not, and I’ll change my mind and decide to “‘get’ the future path of Web 2.0.”

    People know when they’re having their hands tied behind their back when using a product. This is no different.

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