Posted March 25, 2009 10:17 am by with 16 comments

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chess-move2Ever since Facebook rolled out its new design, we’ve heard how millions of users hate the decision, but founder Mark Zuckerberg apparently didn’t care what they thought.

Now Facebook is responding to the vocal minority–yes a few million is a minority among 175 million total users–and will look at making changes to the new layout. I won’t go into all of the changes Facebook has agreed to make because that’s not what I won’t to focus on in this post. Instead, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my theory:

Did Facebook users win the war, or is the social network merely conceding territory it’s apathetic about in order to give the appearance that its users have a say in the company’s future?

Let me explain. In Radically Transparent we discuss the importance of ensuring your vocal detractors are brought inside. We explain that you don’t have to hand over the keys to your business, just let your detractors steer the car for a while and they’ll feel like they played a part in getting to the company’s destination. You might argue that it’s not very transparent, but your detractors don’t always have the better solution, they were just pissed that you made the changes without consulting them first.

I believe that’s what is happening here. Unlike Scoble or Arrington, I don’t believe Facebook has handed over control to “volvo” or “camel” designers. Instead, it appears that Facebook is extremely smart in the way it’s handling this. It’s rolled out massive changes–ones that it knows will help fill the bank account in the long run–waited to see just how much of a push-back it met, then agreed to some minor tweaks so that the complainers feel they’ve had their voices heard. They go back to being Facebook brandvangelists and Facebook get’s to push on.

What do you think? Am I talking out of my rear, or does this make sense to you?

  • No matter how you put it, they’re listening to the voice that drives their business. That’s a smart decision.

    I’ve played many video games (online) that had communities of people who spoke out against changes, tried to suggest solutions, and were always shot down. Every time a company refused to listen to its users and just focus on what made sense for the bank account, they failed.

    Props to Facebook. (ps I don’t think your theory is crazy, but the general idea doesn’t change – but I don’t think they’re listening to their users just to say they did.)


    Tyler Shears’s last blog post..Google Using NoFollow to ‘Hoard’ Page Rank

  • @Tyler – thanks for adding your observations!

  • I think you might be right, Andy. From what I’ve read, there aren’t going to be any true substantive changes—they’ll be letting users have greater control over what stories show up on their home page, but that’s the only specific thing I’ve seen. In short, they’re keeping the redesign and offering a couple tweaks to appease the masses.

    To get even more conspiracy-theory-ish, maybe this was all a calculated move. I mean, before the redesign, we had the ability to refine what kind of stories/which friends we saw on our home pages, so it’s not like that’s a new feature.

    Perhaps it was all orchestrated from the beginning—Facebook rolled out this change with a few “concessions” built in. They made sure there would be a few things they could give up ground on in case the change was poorly received (like all of their previous changes), so they could look good without actually changing back.

  • As an avid facebook user, I agree with the complaint that it the new look and feel of facebook is too similar to twitter. For me, I liked facebook more than twitter because it didn’t focus on publicizing each individual updates your friends made to their profile. But now, if one of your friends decides to upload all of the pictures from their 3 month tour of china, your entire newsfeed consists of a short blurb about each individual picture your friend uploaded. Quite ridiculous if you ask me.

    It’s obvious that facebook didn’t think to correct problems like these before rolling out the new format. And I think they are very wise to consider the feedback that they have been getting.

    In the end, I don’t think this has much to do with the new format, but rather the selection of publicized content.

  • I think that Facebook is definitely going in the right direction. However, this time it seems as though they’ve copied Twitter a bit to closely and need to identify their own still before they are done with this iteration.

    I completely agree with them moving towards a model that will fill the bank account. This will keep them around and thus continuing to iterate. Always a good thing.

    I think you’re on the right track here Andy. Facebook should be sensitive but not submissive to their users.

    Nice post.

    Ryan Graves’s last blog post..Can Copycat-ing be a successful growth strategy?

  • I like the new look actually. Just me though.

    Blog Expert’s last blog post..5 Reasons to Pick a Multitier Affiliate Program to Make Money at Home

  • I agree that many people don’t like the new style, but I’m like ‘Blog Expert’ above and I actually like it!

    Then again, I’m not on FB 24/7 like some people I know, so maybe they are the one’s that are kicking up all the fuss at the moment?

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    Miranda (colbertobsessed)’s last blog post..It’s Hard Work, But It Has to Be Done

  • Okay, obviously, my comment didn’t work. What I said was, yes, they’re just giving up something they’re apathetic about to create the illusion that they give a damn what we say. They don’t care, they’re a huge conglomerate now and as long as they control our content and what we do and STEAL from other websites, they don’t care. Well, screw ’em, I’m not using Facebook anymore.

    Miranda (colbertobsessed)’s last blog post..It’s Hard Work, But It Has to Be Done

  • Makes sense to me, Andy. I think the one place they’re missing the boat is that their users don’t seem to be as angry about the way Facebook *appears* so much as they are not feeling the *functionality*. If they’d tell people what the advanced users know and take for granted they’d squash a lot of this beef. (Two examples: you can still get to the feed preferences page and tweak what you see, that you can still get to the privacy page and tweak what you share).

    Sidebar: Are you aware that in Safari, the comment form is misaligned?

    Tinu Abayomi-paul’s last blog post..Click Here to Ask Me a Question

  • i don’t know… this may very well be the case, but i think that facebook has begun it’s descent from greatness. as i look at what’s happening now, it reminds me all to much of what happened to myspace when facebook started gaining ground. it tried to mimic the things that made the other seem cooler. over time, myspace has tried so hard to accumulate so many different faces and features that it’s now just a jumbled mess. facebook seems to be taking the same dark road.

    my guess that in a year there’s something new. either a new social networking site or a new method altogether, like how myspace trumped text messaging. facebook will retain it’s core base, but will only retain most people as occasional users for one of its features (my guess is photo storage), like myspace is with music.

    i simply can’t see facebook surviving for much longer as the major internet force it is. users may feel like mark listened, but they’re still fed up. even if corrections are made, the site has lost the faith of the users.

    trace’s last blog post..sats.

  • I like the new style, but Facebook can be better.

  • Case in point…
    When you have a garage sale you always price the items a little higher than what you actually expect to get paid for them. Sometimes people pay what you are asking and you get a bonus. Sometimes they bicker with you on price and you get paid exactly what you wanted in the beginning. Both people walk away from the transaction thinking they got the better end of the stick.

    I believe that this is facebook did. They implemented all these new changes knowing full well that they could remove some of the changes and still end up with what they wanted anyway. They had already experienced the backlash from the last set of changes so they knew what to expect. Once again, both parties walk away thinking they got exactly what they wanted.

    I love facebook…new or old.


    Wendy Merritt’s last blog post..31 Social Media and Bookmark Icon Sets

  • Yeah, that’s super weak. I don’t mind the redesign but damn… I think they should just do what they want and a few dissenters be damned.

    Trisha Lyn Fawver’s last blog post..California Assembly Bill 178

  • James Johannisen

    All in all I think the changes made to Facebook is an improvement on the design and front, but Facebook has no choice but to cater to what the users want, they will try to slowly implement their plans but if user satisfaction is not met, it could prove risky for the social media giant.

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