Blog Post

Facebook Backlash

Update: I should note the backlash on these new features (funnily enough, some of it came to me through my new Facebook news feed). Many Facebook users are displeased, particularly since the news feeds’ default privacy options make everything viewable. More than 100,000 users joined a group called “Students Against Facebook News Feed” demanding “Until this feature is removed or changed to protect my privacy, I WILL NOT update my profile.” Mark Zuckerberg has just posted, “Calm down. Breathe. We hear you.”

Facebook holds itself above other social networks because of its focus on real-world relationships. The company sees itself as a utility, providing up-to-date information about your friends and what they’re doing.

Sometimes Mark Zuckerberg and his crew of big-picture thinkers try too hard to separate themselves, calling a blogging tool “notes” or adding a company blog without a feed. But other times they seem to really get it — for instance, today’s new features: news feeds that show, chronologically, your friends’ most recent activities across the site, and your own most recent activities across the site. In 30 seconds, I can find out what my family, my college friends, my current friends, and even some of my work contacts have been doing. If I think my own “mini-feed” has too much information in it, I can adjust it item-by-item to leave no trace.

In the past, while Facebook users hung out changing things on the site all day long, it appeared static. To figure out what was new, members had to organize their friends’ pages by most recently updated, or visit their pages to get their current status (for some heavy users, this is frequently adjusted down-to-the-minute location/state of mind information). It’s not clear that Facebook is worth billions of dollars, but it’s nice to see the company forgoing page views and its old way of doing things to make itself much more useful.

21 Responses to “Facebook Backlash”

  1. Hey John

    Thanks for proving my point. Just as many people I find like the features as hate it. There are tons of groups standing on each side. If facebook says they are wrong now,.. what’s next, the next feature they add? People hate change, but to say they are wrong now would only set a precendent for down the road. They need to talk with the community and teach people how to use their privacy settings as most people just need to tweak it, so all their infor isn’t every where or delete what they did from their history on their profile. I know this as a facebook user. If you look at most of the anti groups, they just call the feature lame, but don’t say why. Why look at all your friends profiles, when all the same features is on your homepage.

  2. John Tenassian

    No, Duane. 100k people mean more like 1,000,000 who are angry about it, but haven’t had the time or don’t/won’t complain outright about it. And add now all of these people trashtalking the site… it’s a nightmare.

    What’s even worse is Mark Zuckerberg’s response. “Calm Down. Breathe. We Hear You.” It’s hard for me to imagine a headline more patronizing. How about saying “Our Mistake” or “Whoops”. First rule of good customer service is to apologize for ANY mistake, perceived or not. Doesn’t matter who is right or wrong, the customer wants to hear that THEY are right and have a real problem.

    Facebook needs to disable this ASAP, to publicly admit they were “wrong” to foist it on people, then allow their users to opt-in to it.

    But I hope they won’t, because it could well be a turning point against them.

  3. Not every company that grows and adapts to its users makes 100% correct decisions that 100% of the users like 100% of the time. Here’s Facebook’s time to shine. If they can alter the feeds to appease more of these people, then the net effect could be positive. Ultimately I think it will cause the Facebook addicts to stop doing tons of crap to their profiles that most people could care less about. I have a MySpace account, and when I start getting 8 bulletins a day from the same person, I delete them as a friend.

    Give it a couple weeks, then we’ll see.

  4. I don’t think everyone is looking at the big picture here, to some degree. People only complain when they are unhappy not when they are happy. So the fact that anyone who likes the new features are not saying anything is normal. If a 100,000 or even 1 million students don’t like it, think how many of the users do like it and add a good curve in their for nutrel students. I didn’t like the new features as much yesterday, but I found them a bit more useful this morning, after having slept on the idea.

    I think they should work to improve on the features with the community. I think more students like the new features then don’t, but you never hear from the happy camp more times then not. There will always be a small group you can’t please because you can’t please everyone in life.

    I think some are taking this story to far and making seem like everyone hates the new features, when I think most don’t. I know for one, that I like them and a few of my friends do as well. But again, facebok shold work with the anti-new features group and help make them “better”.

  5. Are you nuts?

    I love how you and Mike Arrington are COMPLETELY out of touch with what college students actually WANT out of a service like facebook.

    Within a span of about 15 minutes of release, over 600 comments were made in reaction to the News feed and Mini feed. I am a 21 year old college student, semi-avid user of facebook, and EVERYONE I know HATES the changes that have been implemented. Some people I know, as well as people who posted on the their blog, have threatened to close their facebook accounts all together.

    The reason for me is totally understandable. People feel, and rightfully so to me, that they should not have to go back and manually erase all their history that they don’t want to see. No one likes to have their sense of privacy invaded, and now, if you want to see EVERYTHING a person has done recently, all you need to do is visit their profile.

    READ THIS COMMENT, it was one of the ones I saved before they actually disabled comments (has Mark Zuckerberg turned FASCIST?):

    “These new features are great, people just aren’t used to them yet. This is really going to help me keep tabs on my girlfriend.

    One feature I’d like to request you add is the ability to see how often people view a certain page and whos pages they are looking at. I need to keep tabs on my girlfriend and that would be a great help. Thanks!”

    I don’t know if this guy is being sarcastic, but either way.. does this not sound a little insane to you??

    I know you web 2.0 bloggers jump for joy every time some kind of RSS or other trendy feature comes up, but wow, it is just hard to believe that you and Techcrunch would actually praise Facebook for a move that its audience and users so clearly dislike.

    This move is definitely going to leave a bad taste in college students’ mouths every where and will leave it vulnerable to the next great thing to come along.

    -a college student that “gets it”

  6. Yeah, I full just joined the Anti-Facebook-Feed group, because I’m a little creeped out by the change. I can see the utility in it all, but just throwing it at users like they did today wasn’t all too smart, and they make the option to make some activity private very explicit or let you opt out totally of having your activity syndicated.

    I mean, I have nothing to hide, but it’s still all a little creepy.

    That being said, it is quite handy to see what people have been up to. (My, there have been a lot of broken relationships among my friends in the past day!)

  7. I agree that a lot of the negative comments are knee-jerk reactions. A lot of the people whose comments I included in my blog post about the issue were not really aware of how they could remove items from their feed. However, I think the big problem is in the design of the feature.

    Facebook launched the News Feed feature without warning users first so it caught people by surprise. News of the feature spread fast, people logged in and saw a log of their Facebook activities explicity published and became angry. The feature should have been communicated better.

  8. Chris and Andrew–

    I’ve been noticing the backlash as well. I would guess Facebook will respond by making privacy defaults and options (e.g. who can see what) more specific. Facebook is not just about colleges anymore so the Venn diagrams get more complicated.

    I tend to be a fairly private person, but I don’t have a problem with the new Facebook features. I don’t think this is so bad as the ‘see who has looked at my profile’ type features on other sites, or the email alerts places like LinkedIn send out when people update their profiles.

  9. Why is everyone “reporting” about this pretending like this is a revolutionary concept and evidence that Facebook “gets it”. You don’t have to look very far over the social network landscape to see that this is commonplace and facebook is just catching up.

  10. I’m really not sure I agree that Facebook “gets it”. The News Feed is not only a privacy concern for many, but shows mostly unimportant information. Since most people on Facebook have “friends” they don’t directly communicate with, knowing that sort of person just added a comment on someone’s wall is rather useless, and frankly an overload of information. It’s going to make people think twice about any casual social interaction on the site…

    There were 600 comments on the Facebook blog within 20 minutes of the feature launches last night, every single one negative. A large number of people even said if the features weren’t taken down, they would leave Facebook. They’ev since turned commenting off on the blog.

  11. Ironically, it seems that the facebook community is not responding too positively to this new feature (TechCrunch and GigaOm reviews are fairly positive). In addition to Notes and comments, there’s already a group called “Facebook feed has just killed privacy” (I’m sure others are out there). While the feed publications are editable (the user can choose to manually remove new feed items), some users are peeved at the idea that the default setting is for all changes to be broadcast to all friends, even if this information has always been accessible. Of course, at this point in time, everything should be considered a knee jerk reaction, so it will be interesting to see the different reactions as people get used to the feature.

  12. if page views is no longer the currency, how can their value be measured by VCs when comparing to MySpace and other SNS? without page views and minimal time spent on the site, how does their advertising business model pan out? i’m sure Microsoft is very interested!