Facebook Backlash

Friday, September 12, 2008

As [100] million Facebook users now know, the site has been redesigned. The changes have not exactly gone over too well, although more people than not apparently aren't complaining. I for one will voice my displeasure over the new layout.

Many people dislike it. Some are indifferent. I don't like it but I admit it is probably not as bad as some people make it out to be. It certainly has been a news worthy item though in the technology and internet community.

I like this intro to the story in the Chicago Tribune yesterday [link];
Imagine coming home from work to find your house in a different color, the rooms switched around and the furniture rearranged.

That's the virtual equivalent Facebook users have faced or will face as the online hangout forces its 90 million members to adapt to a redesigned site, unveiled in late July. Beginning this week, users' profiles will be irrevocably migrated to the new site. And the changes are being met with a mix of protest and resignation.

Let's take a tour...

The Tabs

I understand the idea going here and it doesn't seem terrible, at first. Why Facebook would decide to implement this tab idea though is beyond me. With the old layout all of the information that would appear in these tabs used to be right on a person's profile page in a resume sort of layout. What I mean is all of your profile information was laid out from top to bottom, depending on what you wanted published. If you wanted to close, or minimize, this information all you had to do was click on the heading and it would all be hidden. The best part about the old way was the clean and efficient look it would give he user.

The new tabs allow the user to view what information they want to see, whether it be comments on the person's Wall, detailed profile information, photos of the person in the profile, or view all of the "extras" the individual has added to their profile.

Facebook's biggest problem may have been the excessive amount of applications that users would add to their profiles pages. Many applications add to the content being provided by users and it was a way of customizing their individual profile to best showcase themselves. The new layout hinders that extra touch of personality and instead shoves it all into a cluttered mess under a tab titled "Boxes".

For example, my old Facebook profile had extra applications that represent me and I felt I placed them in spots that were fit for each. I have an application for Phillies fans, Penn State fans, a game I enjoy, a section for quizzes and a few others I liked. Now it is likely that nobody will ever see them because they are under the vague "Boxes" tab.

Facebook does give each user the opportunity to add extra tabs to better showcase different applications, but I am curious as to just how many people will really do that.

Wall Filters

I admit that this is not the most terrible idea ever. On your profile page you can see all activity on the wall (for non-Facebook users, the Wall is where users can exchange messages to each other that everyone can read, much like the comments section in a blog) or filter it to see only the posts you made on your own wall or comments left for you on your wall. Adding to the much unneeded clutter is the fact that it adds in your status updates and comments you have left on other people's photos.

As if it weren't enough to leave comments on somebodies wall, now you can leave an additional comment on one's status message. I'll use my friend Mike as an example...
I will occasionally leave somebody a message relating to their status message, much in the way people sometimes leave an instant message responding to an away message. The first time I did this with the new Facebook I had trouble finding the message I had left for somebody. I assumed that I had left a comment on their wall, which until now would be the most logical location for my comment, but in fact I had contributed to a completely new string of comments.

While I applaud the thought process here, I have to give a thumbs down. Imagine if I did something like this for the blog. What if you could leave a comment about a blog post in the comments section but also leave a comment responding to the title of the post under the title? Sound confusing. That is my point exactly. In this case, less is good. Which leads me to the next segment...

The Feeds

What you see above is a snapshot of my recent "Live Feed". It gives me a stream of all the activity my Facebook friends are doing. It gives me updates on status messages, what photos they were tagged in, who my friends have become friends with (in case I want to be their friend too) etc. It is nice, straight forward, and clean. It is everything a feed should be. So why am I complaining about it? Because it is not the default feed that shows when I load up Facebook!

Below is a snapshot of the "News Feed" that shows on screen when I log in to Facebook.

Both of the above snapshots were taken within a minute of each other so we can tell the similarities and differences. Personally I want my information to be as clutter free as possible, but Facebook decides to show me the photos that are added and the ones people were tagged in as well as the profile picture of a friends who is leaving a comment for somebody else next to what they said. My beef is not that the News Feed is not the best layout, but that I can't change my preferred feed to load when I log in. I would be much happier if I could view the Live Feed by default instead of the collage-like News Feed.

Look, Facebook users can join their protest groups and people like me can blog about it to their heart's content but the reality is that the layout is not likely to change anytime soon. In a recent article from the United Kingdom the following statement was made [Telegraph.co.uk];
Facebook said about 40 million users had tried out the new design, and that about 30 million had embraced it instantly, without returning to the old layout.
Sounds like tough noogies for Facebook layout protesters to me. I am sure that in a short amount of time many of the angry Facebook users will do one of two things;
  1. Get used to the new layout and discover benefits of the new design
  2. Forget what they were so angry about
  3. Realize that life still goes on (I mean, I personally lived without Facebook for about 25 years, right?)
I believe that Facebook layout detesters should find other ways than joining groups on the service though. Take your complaints, thoughts, suggestions and what have you straight to Facebook. There are a few ways to this as well...
  • SEND FEEDBACK! I am sure many people overlook this, but if you log in to Facebook, look in the top right of your screen...
    Ta-da! An instant link to voice your displeasure to the Facebook group.
  • If you want to find another way to reach Facebook, why not comment on their own blog? It seems to me that either nobody reads it or nobody leave s a comment on it. Seems to me that if those million plus people who joined 1,000,000 AGAINST THE NEW FACEBOOK LAYOUT had each left a comment on the Facebook blog, the chances of Facebook listening might be a little better.
My Final Thought
I can live with it, but like the days of the four man pitching rotation, the old Facebook layout is not likely to return despite my craving for it. I will move on and adjust accordingly, and I would applaud a reversal in thinking at Facebook, but I don't anticipate any retro changes to happen. On the flip side there is something nice I have picked up on. That is that I have been seeing far fewer advertisements make their way into my feeds that advertise applications or are just plain old commercials.

So you see, it's not all bad! Changes are inevitable people, especially in the online community.

What are your thoughts? Leave them in the comments. Oh, and feel free to Facebook me!

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