This past Tuesday, Facebook made a big old announcement about a new feature that is in beta right now — the Graph Search.
There are lots of articles and posts about this AMAZING AND BRILLIANT new feature, and already people are weighing in about its usability and whether or not it’s as sparkly and shiny as Zuckerberg made it out to be.
I don’t think the following sentence comes as a surprise, but here goes: people are really, really tired of Facebook changes. A note about that article I just linked to: it’s from before Facebook went public. There were quite a number of other changes made after that, as well.
The social networking giant announced in October 2012 that it has a BILLION users. And over half of those billion users are daily users. That’s a lot of people to confuse, piss off, and annoy with your changes, isn’t it?
But, wait — before I start sounding like a curmudgeon and singing about the “good old days,” I want to make something clear. Innovation is necessary. Change is always painful, sure, but needed in order for a product to be successful.
And no doubt – Facebook is seriously innovative. Look at how many people depend on it and use it as a part of their daily routine.
There’s something dangerous about this, though. It is entirely possible to tweak, update, and polish something so much that it breaks.
And when you combine all of those tweaks with privacy scares and more perceived risk? Not good.
See, millions of people on Facebook either don’t know about or haven’t updated their own privacy settings. Obviously there’s a learning curve, regardless of warnings and Facebook encouraging users to update their privacy levels. There is still a good deal of public information out there about people.
If Facebook can’t monitor that discomfort, or at least allow time for users to catch up to all that innovation — well, it won’t be as much of a “social” network anymore if users leave. (Sidenote: if you do choose to leave and delete your account, Facebook still keeps some of your information “for technical purposes.”)
Mark Zuckerberg has always stated that he started Facebook “to make the world more open and connected.”
But Facebook is a business…and businesses have to make money.
So when Zuckerberg announced that “we don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services,” he seemed to forget that those “better services” are for actual people. And a majority of those people are maybe a little annoyed (sometimes A LOT annoyed).
The other day a good friend pointed me to a Nerdist podcast featuring Warren Ellis (if you listen to that, it’s NSFW), who had some really insightful things to say about the internet in general. They were discussing the Instagram/Facebook deal, and Ellis made a really important observation:
It’s the kind of bullsh-t that television gets its fossilized ass involved with. That is a sign of the times. That’s a sign that they are now big media, and all their problems are basically going to be pissing matches, and it’s not about the users. It’s about what the users can be used for, and what the users can be leveraged against.
And this is what Facebook needs to stay on top of. Facebook provides a service now. If it manages to piss off enough users, it’s possible that the social networking giant could fail.
But I’m saying this now — scaring folks with privacy changes, announcing new and fancy search options — that is NOT the way to build a loyal user base. And without the users, you don’t have a Facebook at all.