Facebook's latest redesign which has been clearly inspired Twitter's real-time stream of status updates has had a ton of detractors from all corners. One of the biggest places where the outcry has centralized is the Facebook Layout vote application which currently has had over a million votes from Face book users with over 94% against the new changes and almost 600,000 comments, most of which seem to be negative if the hundred or so I read were a representative sample.

One thing I've wondered is how the folks at Facebook are taking this feedback. On the one hand, people don't like changes and the more disruptive the change the more they fight it. It's almost comical to go back and read the Time magazine article about the backlash against the news feed from back in 2006 given how much the feature has not only ended up defining Facebook but how significantly it has impacted the social software landscape at large.  On the other hand, sometimes people have a good reason to protest such as the outcry against the privacy destroying Facebook Beacon which eventually inspired a mea culpa from Zuckerburg himself.

Owen Thomas from Valleywag has an article entitled Even Facebook Employees Hate the Redesign which contains the following excerpt

The feedback on Facebook's new look, which emphasizes a stream of Twitter-like status updates, is almost universally, howlingly negative. Why isn't CEO Mark Zuckerberg listening to users? Because he doesn't have to, he's told employees.

A tipster tells us that Zuckerberg sent an email to Facebook staff reacting to criticism of the changes: "He said something like 'the most disruptive companies don't listen to their customers.'" Another tipster who has seen the email says Zuckerberg implied that companies were "stupid" for "listening to their customers." The anti-customer diktat has many Facebook employees up in arms, we hear.

When your application becomes an integral part of your customers lives and identities, it is almost expected that they protest any major changes to the user experience. The problem is that you may eventually become jaded about negative feedback because you assume that for the most part the protests are simply people's natural resistance to change.

I tend to agree that disruptive companies don't listen to their customers in the narrow sense of using them as a barometer to decide what products or features to build. Customer feature requests aren't the source of input that would spawn a Netflix in a world that had Blockbuster & Hollywood video. Such disruptive products are spawned from understanding the customers better than they understand themselves. If you had simply "listened" to Blockbuster's customers you'd think the best way to compete with them would be to have cheaper late fees or a bigger selection in your store. Netflix actually went a step further and understood the underlying customer problems (e.g. even going to a video store is a hassle which is why you end up with late fees in the first place) and created a product that was truly disruptive.

Using that model of "disruptive companies" the question then is whether the new Facebook is an example of understanding your customers better than they understand themselves or is truly a mistake? For my take on the answer I'll first point out a comment on Valleywag on the redesign

Here's the problem with the redesign. Twitter is a micro-blog. The 140 character Livejournal.

Facebook is not a blog. In its old form it was a really great PHONEBOOK. A phonebook that not only updated your acquaintance's (most FB friends are not friends) contact info, but also gave you a general summary of their life. It was a big picture kind of thing: Where they are, who they're dating, what school or job they have, and how to contact them. It was never about "sharing" your daily thoughts on how great your panini was or omg gossip girl is back! The livejournal twit-blog crap is messing up the phonebook interface.

This is the crux of the problem with the Facebook redesign. The expectations around how user relationships were created on Twitter are totally different from how they were on Facebook. On Twitter, users explicitly decide as part of following someone that they want all of the person's tweets in their stream. In fact, this is the only feature of the relationship on Twitter. On Facebook, you have relationships with people that attempt to mirror your real life so you have your boss, coworkers, school friends and acquaintances all trying to be part of your social graph because FB is really a kind of "rolodex" in the sky.

The fact that you got a news feed was kind of a side effect of filling out your virtual rolodex but it was cool because you got the highlights of what were going on in the lives of your friends and family. There is a legitimate problem that you weren't getting the full gist of everything your 120 contacts (average number of Facebook friends) were doing online but it would clearly lead to information overload to get up to the minute updates about the breakfast habits of some guy who sat next to you in middle school.

Somewhere along the line, it seems the folks at Facebook didn't internalize this fundamental difference in the social context that differentiates user to user relationships on Twitter versus Facebook. This to me is a big mistake.

Note Now Playing: Goodie Mob - They Don't Dance No Mo' Note


Saturday, March 21, 2009 5:11:13 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Facebook has made the decision that user generated content (like Twitter) is more important than the connectivity or ability to find people you know and who they are in turn connected with. The value of Facebook for me was not the live stream of content from users... I might dip my toe in that from time to time, the value was knowing who was connecting, and how I might re-connect with others. This does nothing to expand on the true VALUE that facebook brought me... connectivity. Instead it hopes to be what Twitter is for me... a source of social opinion and trending ideas / thoughts. Sorry, it loses on that front. Focus on what you have been good at, connecting people. Leave social content to someone else!
Saturday, March 21, 2009 7:13:15 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Those last few paragraphs were a great explanation of the cultural differences between Facebook and Twitter prior to this new system.

Now that Facebook has become more Twitter-like, it may have left a gap for a service that better meets the needs of those looking for overview Rolodex instead of the constant lifestream.
Sunday, March 22, 2009 12:10:31 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I think the first two comments, Dan's in particular, was spot-on. Facebook forgot what their value proposition was and it wasn't flooding your newsfeed with inane game updates. Oh, Dave threw a sheep at Susan or Margaret scored 29 on Word Hunt? That's nice, but why do we have to post those things, an inch tall, in the news feed every single time it happens? I'm far more interested in knowing that Danielle just added Mary as a friend --- because that's how I discover that my old friend Mary has joined Facebook! I'm more interested to learn that Jim has just joined a group that I didn't know about that sounds extremely relevant to me professionally.

Facebook's value is in connecting people and I just don't really think that happens quite as effectively, for most of us, by telling us 4 times an hour that Joe just attacked another zombie.

Sunday, March 22, 2009 8:11:02 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Newsfeed was brilliant. Beacon had some serious problems. But this time, I think Facebook needs to be careful because the new design does appear to be a step backward.
Sunday, March 22, 2009 3:33:58 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Yes, correct, Zuckerberg misunderstands "disruptive." I guess what he could have said, more diplomatically, is that customers focus on short-term needs, and the company best understands long-term needs.

They obviously realized that Twitter was getting insanely popular. And it was easier for Facebook to provider Twitter functionality than visa-versa.

Facebook needed to centralize the status/link/note posting to make it easier to do. It is now, and it's much friendlier than Twitter.

As to the people "who can't find anything anymore" they need to explain that. I hear that from people struggling with Office 2007, and that's just a transition thing.

Now, there are some *specific* problems with the design. First, there's no reason for the 160-character limitation. None. This most certainly annoys users because they see no reason for it. It would be fair to show users where the 160-char cutoff is in a comment, so they can format their text appropriately (encourage, not mandate, brevity).

People are complaining about the increasing levels of noise. This is bound to happen in any communications system-- encouraging updates has exacerbated in Facebook. I call it flam. Both Facebook and Twitter need to recognize what flam is, and then explain how they can help users mitigate it.
Sunday, March 22, 2009 4:03:58 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
You may be right with your argument, but I think you lost me by quoting stats about the Facebook Layout app. That app is exactly the kind of stuff that Mark, like most good CEOs, was warning his employees about. What are the chances that people who like the Facebook redesign will install that Facebook Layout vote application to give it a positive rating? And what about people (like me) who don't care either way? Not going to install it either.

I mostly care about friend requests, things that end up in my Inbox, and being able to find people I know with the search box. (And on a sidenote, why don't friend requests end up in my Inbox?? Facebook needs to focus more on stuff like that).
Sunday, March 22, 2009 4:07:38 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Like every other Internet portal, Facebook's "customers" are its advertisers, not its users. Anyone who gets this wrong is either misguided or flat-out lying. It seems to me that somebody in Marketing noticed that Twitter is becoming a much more relevant source of what's happening right now, and said "quick, let's monetize this before they do."
Sunday, March 22, 2009 7:01:35 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
This is my more complete response based on what I wrote above:
How Facebook can one-up Twitter

Sunday, March 22, 2009 10:02:12 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
One thing i love twitter for is it’s simplicity. Twitter is just like an old reliable phone-with little or no techy additions. While Facebook on the other hand is like the latest phone on the market- with too many features to choose from.

Twitter is going to get bigger and better,as it doesn’t pretend to be what it’s not. I mean after all it’s all about communicating and staying connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

Facebook on the other hand needs to watch it,i understand the need to make facebook more profitable than it is currently, lets all just hope something better doesn’t show up (of course it might!)on the horizon. If that happens they are going to be losing millions of users in the process just like myspace did.
Monday, March 23, 2009 1:50:13 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Love the "facebook was a phone book, twitter was a 'what's going on right now' app"
Monday, March 23, 2009 5:51:43 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Dare, spot on. I think facebook will eventually find a middle ground that serves both needs better than its current solution. In many ways although I realize twitter is growing extremely rapidly, I don't think it will ever have the degree of appeal that facebook does. Only a minority of people really care to constantly inform the world what they are doing. That has nothing to do with whether twitter will ultimately be a successful enterprise, but it does mean facebook should be careful before shoving the idea down everyone's throat.

As a corollary, I was in college when the newsfeed first was added, and I remember it being a huge deal for a couple of days. More than anything I think it was a revalation to many people about how public they were making their life details by putting them into facebook. People got over it and learned to love the newsfeed, but I still think it was sort of a coming-of-age for social networking as people learned to be more careful about what they posted online (well at least most people did).

I was back visiting my school this weekend, and from some informal polling, I think the redesign is having far smaller ripples than the newsfeed did originally. The design can probably be improved (and I wish it rendered correctly in IE8), but I don't think the platform is in too much peril.
Brad Dodson
Tuesday, March 24, 2009 1:34:10 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
You seem confused.

People with facebook accounts are not "Clients" they are PRODUCT.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009 4:33:43 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
This exposes a fundamental problem in the current social network platforms: the social graph does not weight edges. This means that all relationships within your social network are treated as equal, which results in you receiving the same level of up-to-the-minute trivia from someone you met once and from your closest friend. A significant differentiator for the next generation of social platforms would be the addition of weighting to the social connections within the social graph to distinguish levels or dimensions of relationships.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009 8:28:16 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I think Facebook's redesign represents a fundamental shift in the way online communication is heading. If Facebook represents our ability to stay in touch with friends and Twitter is how we communicate meaningfully with strangers, than this is the marriage. Especially with the upcoming advent of Facebook Search. See more here, please: http://theculturalintellect.com/2009/03/facebook-gets-twitterized-what-it-means-for-the-future-of-communication/
Thursday, March 26, 2009 7:14:14 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
no matter what everybody says, zuckerberg is still a genius.
Friday, March 27, 2009 11:12:07 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Man, You're own post is practically unreadable. Snoore
Wednesday, April 1, 2009 12:42:40 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Actually, i dont like in social bookmarking now, so wasting time.
Facebook becomes popular now.
But user privacy is easy to seen by other user.
I think this is Not good
Comments are closed.