Facebook changed. So what?

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.

Facebook updated

00213_001The 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!”

 

Addendum:

This is a very good critique of the changes to Facebook and why the author thinks they are not all that great. 

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6 thoughts on “Facebook changed. So what?

  1. I’ve nothing controversial or satirical to say about your blog, but I will say I agree with it all. I’m happy that it’s all for free and that’s all that matters to me.

    Can that silly Twitter thing, really be a significant threat to the mighty Facebook though? That I fail to understand because, frankly, it’s rubbish imo!

  2. The Twitter user base at the moment are the bloggers and networkers as well as celebrities and news outlets. Whether Twitter gains mass user appeal is unknown but I think it will, especially as mobile phone internet use increases.

    At the moment I agree – it is rubbish. But I suggest it will get better and more feature rich… and probably be met with the same howls of derision.

  3. Hi G,

    I like your blog on this 🙂

    I can’t see why there’s such an outcry. It’s facebook’s site to make money from adverts and if your a member and you don’t like the changes then go somewhere else.

    There are quite a few social networking sites but you’ll come across the same thing when they decide to update the layout. It was like this (but not as bad) last year when facebook updated the look of the site then. I didn’t mind it.

    I like the new 2009 layout and when the time comes I don’t have a need for facebook, or they make changes I’m not happy with then I’ll leave but until then it’s a great communication tool to keep in touch with people and I use it and Twitter daily. I have a myspace but I don’t use it much.

    People need to chilax and realise it’s just a website and in the grand scheme of things there’s more to worry about than a social networking site’s layout!

  4. Hi Karen
    Thanks for your comment. You’ve pretty much nailed it.

    There are far more knowing people than me who do this for a living and understand the business. There are always sound reasons for changes.

    Sometimes companies get it wrong (www.friendster.com) and they lose their membership. While I doubt Facebook will go away any time soon they do need to adapt to changing trends (look at how slow MySpace have been to implement Web 2.0 features – and they’ve implemented them poorly).

    Technature will take it’s course (I just made up that word!).

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