Facebook changes and rumours

From Twitter:

Scientists: Hey, I think we discovered particles that travel faster than the speed of light. World: OMG new Facebook!

Facebook made some changes to their interface recently, and just like every other time they’ve done this, a bunch of people lost their minds. There were postings about how to get the old interface back by changing your locale to the UK, and I heard the tired old calls of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. There were even petitions demanding that Facebook change it back. These petitions will never work.

It’s not that Facebook doesn’t care what its users think, it’s just that they have so many users that they have to cater to the majority. If you make a petition telling Facebook that you hate the new format and demand that they change it back, and you get thirty five million people to sign it – the entire population of Canada – and print it out and drop it on Mark Zuckerberg’s desk, do you know what he’ll say? He’ll look at the 35 million signatures of people who hate the interface and say “This means that ninety five percent of our users love it! Success!”

Meet the new Facebook, same as the old Facebook

Of course, two days after the change, the postings all stop as people become accustomed to the new interface, realize that everything they’ve been used to is still there though perhaps in a different place, and that the new interface really isn’t so bad after all. Everything is once again fine in the Facebook world until the next time they make a change, at which time people will lose their minds once again – because Facebook has changed away from the interface they complained so bitterly about the last time.

Ever notice that the people that complain the most about the Facebook changes are those who update their status fifteen times a day and are the least likely people to leave Facebook? Facebook knows this, which is another reason they don’t worry about the complaints. I’m not making judgements about people who are on Facebook a lot – I am quite active on Facebook myself, as well as Twitter, and I have my own blog fer cryin’ out loud, so I’m not about to criticize others for wasting spending a lot of time online.

Regarding the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – do you really want Facebook to keep the same interface and features forever? That’s not the way the software industry works. We software engineers are always looking for ways to make our product better. Sometimes this comes from adding features that have been requested by customers, other times it’s stuff we come up with ourselves. (Make a note of that word “customer” – I’ll get back to that in a minute.) Facebook engineers are no different – they want to improve the customer experience. Their problem is that many people are using Facebook twenty times a day and become accustomed to how it looks and how to do things. When that changes, people are suddenly uncomfortable with something that they’ve been comfortable with for a long time. The fact that they have seven hundred million users also guarantees that no matter what change they make, millions of people won’t like it, and we all know that people who don’t like something are more likely to comment on it than those who do. How many postings did you see talking about the Facebook changes and how great they were?

Does Facebook have privacy problems? Sure they do. I used to know exactly what the defaults were and how all of that worked, but Facebook has added new features and changed things often enough that now I don’t know what happens by default. I have found in the past that once you change your security settings to be something different from the default, new features tend to be off or more private by default, while if you have never touched your settings, everything’s wide open by default. I don’t know if it’s still that way and that topic is beyond the scope of this article. I did want to mention it to acknowledge that Facebook is not perfect – for those people who read this article and think I’m some kind of Facebook fanboy who would never say anything negative about them.

You will never pay for it

Another rumour that I’ve seen a bunch of times is that Facebook is soon going to start charging people to use the site. I can guarantee you that these are rumours are false. Facebook will always be free. You will never need to worry about paying Facebook anything as a customer. Why? Because you’re not the customer. Facebook is not in the business of building a social network, they are in the business of selling advertising. They built a social network in order to attract people to their website, and they sell those pageviews to advertisers. You are the product Facebook sells. They make far more money selling advertising than they would charging people to use their web site, since they know that a large percentage of the well over half a billion users they have would not pay for the service. Classmates.com never understood this.

So don’t worry about rearranging your finances to have an extra few bucks a month for Facebook, and don’t worry about how you are going to keep in touch with your friends in Texas or Scotland or Italy or Japan without Facebook. Will it be around forever? Who knows. But it’s the most popular web site in the world right now, I don’t see it going away any time soon, and you’ll never have to pay for it.


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