Is Facebook Changing Too Quickly?

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With the Facebook IPO drawing ever closer, the company is trying its best to project itself as stable and business-friendly. This wasn't always the case, though. Until just a couple of years ago, CEO Mark Zuckerberg would implement changes on the site without notice to users, often causing an uproar. These changes were put together as part of the famous Facebook "hackathons" the company would hold. The Wall Street Journal is reporting on how the climate at Facebook is now changing, from the wing-it hacker vibe to a more controlled, thought-out corporate mentality.

As an example, the Journal article looks at how Facebook's new Timeline feature was developed. Timeline is the new look of user pages that shows significant and recent events as blocks on the page. According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook spent 18 months developing Timeline, with Zuckerberg himself spending hours each week in meetings with the volunteer design group. The company even used focus groups to get user feedback on the design. The change was previewed months before launch, and then user were given a choice to switch to it or not.

But it didn't matter. Users still complained, at least as much as when the News Feed was introduced with no warning. If Timeline had been thrown together during an all-nighter hackathon, would the user outcry be any less dramatic?

Another recent change, the promotion of "trending articles" within users' News Feeds has proven unpopular as well. It's a given that the decision to put news reader app articles into the News Feed wasn't made overnight.

There was a time when Zuckerberg seemed not to care what Facebook users thought of the site's changes. His confidence was almost condescending as he professed to know exactly what people want in a social network. And you know what? He was right. His vision was spot-on and years ahead of anyone else. So what will happen as Zuckerberg takes a step back and allows focus groups design Facebook features? Will he be able to keep his long-term vision for Facebook on-track now that the company will have shareholder to please on a quarterly basis? It's time to find out and I, for one, am eager to see how corporate money and culture will shape the world's largest social network.

(via Wall Street Journal)