To the universe I don’t mean a thing
Whether it’s posting messages of support online for troubled celebrities we’ve never met or putting up posters of missing children in a local rural post office thousands of miles from the abduction, people have a genetic disposition to belong, to be identified with something.
I guess that’s why we support football clubs, join churches and wildly wave our national flags patriotically on holidays like any of it actually means anything in the grand scheme of things.
The latest event to raise hackles across the world is the outrageous decision by Facebook – the world’s free and most popular social networking website – to update its look.
Protest groups with names like “Petition against the ‘New Facebook’” (with over 1.5m users) and “We Want Old Facebook Back!!!” have been set up by users who are horrified at how this free service has changed beyond recognition.
Those changes were…
What’s actually happened, rightly or wrongly, is two fold: Facebook has (1) made more room for advertising and (2) remodelled the homepage to more closely resemble the features of micro-blogging success story Twitter.
On the first point, there’s a reason Facebook is free. It sells advertising. And, because this is how business works, they need to maximise their advertising revenues any reasonable way they can. A stagnant business is a dying business and with venture capital money a lot more expensive than it was last year Facebook need to bring in as much of its own revenues as it can.
Facebook can’t ask you to pay for an ad-free or customisable experience. No one wants to pay for a service they used to get for free and, if anything, more people will get the hump if there was an optional fee to go back to the old look.
On the second point, Twitter is the new kid in town and Facebook are getting nervous. Twitter doesn’t disclose how many users they have but estimates place the count at about 5 million. Compare this to the 175 million on Facebook and you might wonder what the fuss is.
But it wasn’t too long ago that over MySpace were comfortably the leading social network in the world and after being overtaken by Facebook globally, 2010 is set to see them replaced as the leading US site too.
Getting the hump
Now you might be sitting (standing, shadow-boxing – whatever) reading this with the right hump and saying “yeah, but I liked it the way it was!”
Unfortunately, patronising as it might sound, we don’t always get things the way we would like them to be. When it comes down to it things will take their natural course. And if you don’t like Facebook then go use some other site. The only way that people running the site will get the message is if they start losing members and, subsequently, advertising revenue.
The New Terms of Service
A lot of this is fear mongering bullshit anyway. Back in February Facebook updated its terms of service. This led to more kicking and screaming from the agitated user base, underlined by the 2.6 million (about 1.5% of their total active membership) users signed up to the “Against Facebook’s New Layout & Terms of Service” group.
The complaint centred on the wording “irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license” relating to users information after they deleted their account.
After a lot of fussing Facebook reverted to their old terms of service with “founder” Mark Zuckerberg making a staunch defence, effectively saying that merely posting stuff on Facebook grants them licence to use it anyway and that the ways Facebook use your information has always been on a basis of trust.
Baseless claims like “Facebook plans to make money by selling your data” have as much credibility as those who still spout on about grassy knoll and Area 51 conspiracies. All they do is further the disproportionate hysteria.
And speaking of disproportionate, the amount of negative energy that people expend on what is just a frickin’ website is absolutely ridiculous. I think a bit of perspective might be in order.
Louis CK said it best in his “Everything is amazing, nobody is happy” routine. Below, he mocks the behaviour of a frustrated mobile phone user waiting for their phone to get a signal:
“Give it a second! It’s going to space!”
This is a very good critique of the changes to Facebook and why the author thinks they are not all that great.