With their latest controversial site design change, from where I stand it seems the people at Facebook have forgotten what the service they’re providing really is. Whereas Facebook initially served as a way to keep in touch with friends at work, university and so forth, now it seems they think that functionality is secondary to the need to show users a stream of information bites about what people are doing.
Hold on a minute, read that last line back: a stream of information bites about what people are doing. Does this sound familiar? Yes, it seems the Facebook team are trying to take on Twitter, an entirely different microblogging platform (and the only social network I use constantly).
Current message on the new Facebook home screen.
Why? Is it a case of jealousy? Is it the current cool thing to do?
Twitter and Facebook are entirely different services catering to different needs, or at least they used to be. Twitter’s entire reason for existing is to allow you to constantly post what you’re doing and follow people who’s tweets you find interesting; Facebook was supposed to be like an address book you could comment on. The difference is substantial.
The mistake Facebook has made is assuming all their users care about what every single one of their contacts are constantly doing! I’m very interested to read what Jerry Novak is doing during his day on Twitter, that’s why I followed him in the first place. I’m far less interested in what some of my former contacts on Facebook are constantly doing.
Screenshot of my Twitter profile taken a few minutes ago showing some updates. Why use an imitation when you can use the real thing?
Mark Zukerburg was quoted as saying to his employees at Facebook that "disruptive companies don’t listen to their customers". I think that says a lot, but not necessarily what he was intending. It is true that sometimes companies need to push the envelope to innovate and create things that people will need in the future, but this assumes you’re capable of it. Perhaps time will tell, and only after people have changed their ways to suit the needs of Facebook rather than the other way round. How many more times do they think they can do this?
I think the people at Facebook need to step back and think hard about what they’re trying to do and what people use their service for. They’re not running a bleeding edge site used by nerds and beta testers anymore, there are huge numbers of people who (for better or worse) are using it as a primary means of keeping in touch now.
In the meantime if you’re angry about the Facebook changes, join us on Twitter won’t you? The water is fine!