Posted March 23, 2009 12:56 pm by with 15 comments

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The most popular social network in the world just can’t get a break. They try to be new and innovative (okay, or they’re trying to rip off Twitter), and users hate it. HATE it. And Facebook basically says, “Tough.”

But anyone who’s been on Facebook for a couple years has seen this all before: almost every redesign and tweak has been met with virulent “I HATE THE NEW FACEBOOK” groups and discussions. They hated the news feed and mini feed years ago, they hated Beacon, they hated last year’s redesign, and they hate this one, too. Let’s face it: people hate change. But so far, Facebook has stuck to its guns about half the time—and even when they’ve made changes, they’ve modified, but never fully rescinded anything (other than the TOS changes)—and FB continues to flourish through all the fracas.

So will Facebook yield this time, or do they really not care what their users (not “customers,” as Frank rightly points out) are saying? Robert Scoble opines that Facebook can’t care what its users think—they’ve got to start thinking about the businesses entering the social graph. According to Scoble, this is:

when Facebook is really going to find its business model. This is why Mark Zuckerberg is absolutely correct to say he can’t listen to people who wants Facebook to get stuck in Phase Four [without businesses]. It was a nice phase, yes, when Facebook only had people in the social graph, but those days are over.

Don’t get distracted by the current design that looks sort of like Twitter. Twitter showed that businesses can co-exist on the social graph along with people. Zuckerberg is smart. He saw that Twitter was going to make a crapload of money (that’s why he tried to buy Twitter) and instead of being depressed by being turned down by @ev he decided to phase shift Facebook. . . .

Anyway, all those who are saying the new design sucks should NOT be listened to. Yeah, I know a lot of people are going to get mad at me for saying that. After all, how can a blogger say to not listen to the masses? Easy: I’ve seen the advice the masses are giving and most of it isn’t very good for Facebook’s business interests. (emphasis added)

Let’s face it: by and large, Facebook’s users aren’t its real customersthe businesses advertising and using Facebook are the “customers,” the ones who are paying FB’s bills. Yes, the users are vital to FB and its customers, but we users like to pretend that the actual customers are not only superfluous but ruining our private community (when really, they’re the only things keeping it running. Well, them and VCs.). Facebook has to cater to its real customers to stay alive.

So a lot of this outrage is probably going to pan out to be all talk. Scoble also points out that though his wife, an avid Facebooker, didn’t care for the redesign, her usage hasn’t lessened at all. People make a lot of noise about canceling accounts and leaving Facebook forever, but I think time will show that very few are so enraged as to make this move.

What do you think? Will this move end up being the death of Facebook, or will it mark its shift to a real business plan?

  • Chuck P

    Mark Zuckerberg is an immature, inexperienced early 20-something with a bad attitude. His attitude toward Facebook users has hurt the site’s reputation. Eventually, another site will come along and unseat Facebook as an internet powerhouse, and we all know that day WILL come. When that happens, users will remember how they were treated by this brat and leave in droves.

  • Alexander

    Good for facebook, I say. If Mark had listened to his users’ whining from the start, facebook would be a relic of the past like MySpace. The sense of entitlement of web users getting something for free really blows me away. Just like people getting angry at ma.gnolia for not backing up their data for them, or gmail having *gasp* downtime!

    Hating the new facebook (regardless of which update you’re talking about) is kind of like a facebook cause. You show you care about something that’s ‘cool’ to care about by making noise and not really doing anything else.

    If Mark Zuckerberg is a selfish, prick, then it’s a good thing. If he were doing this to make his users happy, he probably would have done himself in a long time ago.

    But that’s just the biased opinion of a web programmer…

  • This post is dead on. People don’t like change and they never have – but we all continue to use the site. Facebook makes these changes to enhance the user experience. Sure, it feels different at first and the navigation is mixed around, but eventually we find that we like it and have no problem completing what we set out to do. If facebook had ulterior motives behind the change, then they might feel the need to pay attention to the gazillion groups that “Petition Against the ‘New Facebook.'”

    Facebook should be more worried as the site becomes more mainstream how it alienates the younger users who don’t want their moms and future employers there. That’s what will affect its fate, not where they moved the app list to.

  • I don’t know what everyone is complaining about. I absolutely love the changes they’ve made this time around. Whatever they are doing, they are doing it right! We are talking about it, are we not? 😉

    Vlad Zablotskyy’s last blog post..Post 20 Interpreting and Interpreting Jobs For Only $10

  • Andrew

    I highly doubt people are going to leave Facebook en mass. People generally enjoy FB as a communication tool and are not going to leave because Zuckerberg runs his business a certain way. If people cared about stuff like that than Microsoft would of died out years ago. And I doubt people will leave based on changes to the way FB operates. If that were the case people would stop playing games like World of Warcraft, because they didn’t like a certain update to the gameplay.

    Even if another social giant emerges, they will operate the same as FB and put business first. No one can enjoy it if the company goes out of business. Facebook is a unique business and needs to put business first. Everyone hates change, but sometimes change is necessary to make things better in the long run.

  • Rob Horan

    There’s a different between a dislike of change and a dislike of negative changes. There is absolutely nothing positive about the way Facebook operates. Nothing has been improved. Does Twitter work? Yes. Does Facebook work when it pretends to be Twitter? No.

    “But people like Twitter. Twitter Twitter showed that businesses can co-exist on the social graph along with people.”


    People like food. They need food. People like shakes. Shakes are blended. Should we blend burgers, pizza, sushi?

    No? Why not?

    Wait… you don’t like a homogenized mess? You’d rather be able to experience the different tastes and textures for what they are?

  • Whether Zuckerberg has it in for his users or not, he must be savvy enough to realize that Facebookers are incredibly invested in the site with emotional and digital capital. People have cringed through several Facebook shifts and come along through it anyway, most probably because of all of the effort they’ve put into creating their space and cultivating their social network. This kind of data equity is currently impossible to liquidate and carries more and more weight for the user over time.

    Let’s also not forgot that the complainers are always the most vocal. You’re not hearing from the people for whom the changes elicited a tepid “meh” reaction… myself being one among those.

    Naomi Most’s last blog post..fasting

  • I don’t get what the whole fuss is about really. The only thing I hate about Facebook are the continual requests to sign up for new applications. I think the redesign has been the smartest thing yet. At least we can bypass much of the spam.

    Worried about those that dislike it? Well as far as I can tell it’s only a very small percentage of the users, and I’m sure that paying the bills is well worth it. Those that are complaining are not likely to leave anyhow. I would be interested to know how many of those folk that signed the petition this time round also signed the last one. I think it would prove that they are more than happy to enjoy a free service no matter the design.

    Robert’s last blog post..Too Cuil for You

  • Right now I dont know what actually changed on Facebook. It looks different yes but what changed? hehe.
    They need to improve the display of ads and make the Facebook pages more prominent for users.

  • Facebook is a really a case study in how people of all ages angrily resist change in non-critical parts of their lives. I like the new design so I shouldn’t be posting, but you nailed it Jordan when you wrote about people resisting every shift.

    Media changes, clothing styles change, cars change — I can’t think of many areas that remain static. But the furor over this is like the sound and fury caused by Vatican II now that everyone in the world has a voice, visibility and instant peer pressure.

    “Listen but lead” should remain the mantra. Sure, listen to your users (good point on them not being the actual customers), but you don’t implement the things that customers demand. You implement the elements that you think can build a profitable enterprise.

    If Facebook scaled to 5% of its current size and threw off tens of millions in free cash flow every year, we would hail the site as the business success story of the decade — the new Google. Instead, we’re watching this tottering giant trying to stand under its own crushing weight. This is the exact community attitude that causes revolts at eBay every time an executive there makes a minor change.

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  • I agree with Kati. That is what their next challenge will be, I fear. My daughter and her friends have already expressed that exact sentiment. Not that I think FB will lose users, but there will come a time when something else new and shiny steps up and they will all flock to that instead.

    And I think M.Z. is going to be just fine whatever happens.

    Diana Singleton’s last blog post..Advertising a Marketing Company

  • Facebook has come along way in recent years. Changing their site design has caused concern amongst users who do not respond well to change it seems. The company itself are only trying to aim towards businesses who want to advertise. It is not as important towards the social networking side of the company. The design format has only changed in the sense that the opening ‘landing page’ has a different mini feed and information layout. – Will this really cause users to stop using this website?. I believe this to be false. Users who have been on a website for a long duration of time, always learn to adapt to it, until a better version or new trend comes into play. Website design on social networking sites is important but looking back at other sites such as Myspace or Twitter, it just proves that users go by what is ‘in’ and not by what is functional.

    Laura Godfrey’s last blog post..Careers in Web Design – Recruitment

  • Mandi Jacobs

    I know as a Facebook user myself that I am not fond of the new changes. To be completely honest I feel that since I have been on Facebook, its appeal has declined rapidly. They seem to make changes regularly and they always receive complaints about it. I feel like each time they change the layout there is some sort of uproar and they end up changing it back. As for the recent changes, I understand. I know that they need to make changes to keep up with competing sites and to “fill its bank account,” but at what point does making your client base mad have an effect? On the other hand, there will always be complainers so with that said I think Facebook is making a smart decision by tweaking a few things “back to normal” and keeping some of the more popular upgrades. I definitely do not think that the move they have decided to take will at all hurt Facebook but only make it better in the long run.

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