Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The beginning of the end of Facebook?

I've used Facebook for a few years now, and I've seen it grow and change in those years.  I've seen it grow large and have many changes.  This isn't an "I'm leaving Facebook" post, because I still like that it's a place to connect with people.  However, I've decided to talk today about what I see on the horizon for this beast of a social network.

I don't really like what Facebook has become today.  For one thing, I think the site makes too many changes, too often.  Changing things as an improvement makes sense, but only if it really improves the experience.  Too many changes end up confusing and frustrating users who may not be used to the previously-made changes.  Changing a site to take away a user's control over his or her own experience also isn't very good.  I now have Facebook nagging me to add 'likes' to my profile instead of a list of my interests.  What's wrong with a list?  I want to keep it that way.  Are they just going to delete everything I have on there if I take too long to change over?  When you make the decision for me, the site becomes less fun.  I don't think Facebook gets that.

When I started on Facebook, I liked it precisely because one could control what other people saw on your profile.  Your entire profile was, by default, private.  One had to request your Facebook friendship to see everything.  For a long time, the same was not true for the older social network, Myspace.  What attracted me in the first place to Facebook was the concept that you had a semi-safe place in the social arena.  Over the years, that became less true until we reached today's 'public is preferred' model of Facebook. 

I don't think it's a bad thing to allow people to make information public if they want.  I do think it's a bad thing to not allow them to make everything private if they want.  Who is Facebook to tell us what information we shouldn't hide?  They've given you a choice between making things public or just not posting them at all, thus making your profile incomplete and less useful to others.

I've opted out of their new "Facebook is everywhere and you can like anything at all" model, and I dislike the fact that all likes are now public.  These are things you want to share with your friends, but not necessarily the whole world.  Facebook either doesn't understand that or doesn't care.  And now I've reached the point of this entire rant:

If something better, easier, and more private comes along, Facebook is dead.

Users who migrated from Myspace to Facebook did so because Facebook provided them a better experience.  The same thing could happen again.  All it would take is one company to make a social site offering whatever Facebook is not.  I think the process would take longer because Facebook has become such a big part of people's lives, but if another site was truly good enough, it could and would happen.

Facebook needs to think less about how to grow their control of information and more about how to retain their user base.  The things they've done in the past year are note helping them do that.  If enough people get dissatisfied with the experience, like I am, they will stop using the site and Facebook will grow less quickly.

Watch out, Facebook. 


Mal's Team Gherkin said...

Good point. Tho I'm finding it really useful as a networking tool recently :)

Wil said...

You are right. Now go start the desirable alternate and become the next dot com millionaire...