It seems like clockwork. Every 3 to 4 months, I log into Facebook, only to be bombarded with status updates like the this:
OMG!!! They changed the layout AGAIN! I hate it and I’m never using Facebook again!
But even more common are those who criticize the critics:
OMG!! Shut up about the new Facebook update! Just accept it, get used to it, and move on.
Now I’ll admit, both sides have their points, but it’s important to dig deeper in to this issue.
It’s understandable that people are upset by the changes in Facebook. Most people are reluctant to change, especially with something that already has a bit of a technological learning curve. On the other hand, however, Facebook needs to be a source of constant innovation in order to stay competitive in the social media industry. The real issue with Facebook’s updates is that they come often, without much warning, and rarely do they ever change anything significant. Previous updates have led to new innovations, such as the idea of Facebook “pages”, Facebook chat, privacy features and groups, but recently it seems as if they are more focused on the news feed.
What people need to realize is that it’s necessary for Facebook to make updates in order to stay in business, however, it’s also important that Facebook recognizes some things too. First is that rearranging how I read my news feed, is not innovation, it’s simply an irritation. Facebook’s list of new features in recent updates seem to include: something something something news feed, something something something top news, something something something recent stories and something something something chat box. In the past, Facebook gave users far more options to customize their home page display. Now it seems as if we’re stuck watching a constant feed of “Who’s online now” and “who just became friends with who” and “who likes what”.
My suggestion is that Facebook focus on making fewer, but bigger, more meaningful, more innovative, more publicized updates and giving users the option of implementing the new updates early over the course of a few months. Facebook should also focus more on updates that people want, rather than simply implementing updates they think users want.
Another way of looking at this would be to think of your living room. Now imagine that, every 3 to 4 months, someone sneaks into your living room, rearranges the furniture, and then bolts it to the floor, seemingly haphazardly. Then imagine that, every so often, they started bringing in and bolting down new furniture in your living room. While it may be nice to have new things in the beginning, eventually people will reach a tipping point where they prefer an empty room with a single chair and a television, to a cluttered room full of furniture.
In much the same way, Facebook has gone from being simplistic and clean, to a cluttered mess of information I couldn’t care less about. Myspace went down the exact same road. Once more and more features were added and things got more cluttered, people began to search for alternatives. Changes like this prompt people to search for alternatives, and Google has already taken note of this. Google has stripped away everything but the bare essentials of a social media website, giving people a much more user-friendly and intuitive design. Just this morning I noticed that at least 8 (approx. 1%) of my friends signed up for Google Plus accounts which may not seem like much, but over time, it poses a serious threat to Facebook’s market. Once Google Plus reaches it’s point of critical mass, people will shift from using both social networks, to solely using Google Plus. It happened with Friendster and Myspace, and it could happen to Facebook. As for now, it will be interesting to see whether or not Facebook responds to the demands of their users, because that will likely determine their long term success or failure.