Shocker: Facebookers Not Happy With Redesign

    April 23, 2009
    WebProNews Staff

Here’s your scenario: You’re the CEO of an immensely popular social network with 175 million registered users, or just shy of the population of Brazil. Your users are passionate and tend to protest over the slightest changes. Just recently they got really mad about a terms of service change—so mad it was on the evening news and you had to change them back.

Despite those numbers, despite rabid user loyalty, you’re losing money, so much money you got delisted from Forbes’ Masters of the Universe Billionaires list. At the same time another social network, much smaller than yours with less functionality and more questionable future, is gaining a lot of buzz and membership. 

What do you do?

Do you:

Old Facebook Now A.    Don’t fix something that’s not broken. And by not broken, it means that meteoric growth over the past year led your site to trounce MySpace and every sensitive person on the site is relatively happy in their social networking habitat.
B.    Ignore that a growing number of people seem to like an incomprehensible platform much like a feature you already offer. Remember that you have 175 million and growing members, and that Twitter does not, and show that you have plenty of confidence in your product. After all Google didn’t just become a portal because some people didn’t get the spare interface.
C.    A and B, and focus on Job 1, which is figure out a way to monetize so that you can rejoin the Masters of the Universe at Davos next year.
D.    None of the above. Instead, hold a press conference. Announce you’re making the website more democratic if that’s what everybody wants and call for a vote. While everybody’s busy voting on that, change everything.

If you picked D, congratulations, you’re thinking like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

At the end of last month, Zuckerberg laid down what resembled the Magna Carta for Facebook, noting that future changes would be made via a more democratic process in “virtual town halls.” Voting on that set of new principles and user rights and responsibilities would be in effect until March 29, and only required 52 million votes to ensure they took effect. Over that month, said Zuckerberg, Facebook would be making “hundreds of changes.”

Presumably before anybody could stop him. Maybe we’re seeing the grooming of a future politician.

On March 13, Facebook radically redesigned the site to make it more Twitter-esque and less traditionally Facebook-y.

How did the Facebook masses respond? Hard to gauge really.  

Yesterday, an update on the Facebook blog about the new Town Hall voting on the new governance plan was met with a barrage of comments about how much they hated new Facebook and wanted the old one back. But comment threads get ugly sometimes, right? You can’t let a minority of protestors beat you back. Just how many protestors are there, anyway?

Facebook Comment

The number against the changes are even harder to gauge because there are too many separate factions of new Facebook haters. A couple of groups appear to have around 400,000 members, one has 2.7 million, another around 50,000, and several others just have hundreds. We’ll round up and call it a cool 4 million, well shy of the 30 percent of Facebook needed to vote down changes under the new governance that has yet to take effect.

Groups rallying to keep or save the new Facebook exist as well. One of them even has 76 members.

Chris William at the HuffingtonPost does a pretty good job of summing up what appear to be the most unpopular changes. They include:

–No more automatically updating “live feed” with updates on everything. One critic called the live feed a “TV alternative.”
–Data is fully integrated into the new status updates. Users used to be able to separate out by category: wall posts, status updates, links, photos, etc.
–The feed no longer tells you when friends add new friends. This was a popular way of expanding one’s own friends list.
–Now users get updated with every photo posted in a separate post. 30 new pictures posted. 30 new posts in the feed.
–Gone is the ability to just see less of an individual’s posts. Now it’s all posts or no posts from a person.

The complaints go on for a while at different sources. The least that can be said is there are a lot of people out there wondering why unbroken Facebook needed to be fixed, and why anyone with a user base so change-averse to begin with would think hundreds of changes over a short period of time—no testing, no asking—would go over well.

 >>> Do you like the new Facebook?

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