Facebook changes are good – take a deep breath and let me explain


Listening to people talk about the changes to Facebook is a lot like listening to people talk about politics; it’s a lot of angry comments from the clueless.

I have been on Facebook for nearly seven years, and about once a year, the site undergoes major changes. The changes are always (and I mean always) met with anger and criticism. The way how some people react, you would think that their lives were going to be irrevocably impacted. If people got as outraged over famine as they do to changes to Facebook, no one in this world would ever starve.

I wanted to address some of the comments I have heard pertaining to the changes.

Before that, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:
1. Facebook puts lots of time and money into finding ways to improve the site. These aren’t arbitary changes.
2. These changes are here to stay. I have heard some people call this an “expierment.” There’s nothing experimental about this. It’s how Facebook is now.

In much the same way, there will inevitably be petitions created on Facebook to “change it back.” Facebook will basically say, “Thanks for the feedback” to the collective opposition, and then do nothing.

3. The layout changes to Facebook always turn out to be good for the site. Sometimes these changes take some getting used to, but they will improve the overall Facebook experience.

Top stories are Facebook tellng me what to view
If you read Facebook’s descriptioin of the new “top stories” feature, the site says, “Your top stories are stories published since you last checked News Feed that we think you’ll find interesting.”

That Facebook thinks I’ll find interesting? Who is Facebook to decide what I should find interesting?

Newsflash: FACEBOOK ALREADY DOES THAT! The stories that have already been put on your News Feed over time are based on factors such as: people whose profiles you visit, people with whom you interact on Facebook, people with whom you are closely connected, and other factors.

Ticker

Ticker is the feature in the top right hand corner of the screen. It gives you real time updates on what your friends are doing on Facebook. Part of the reason why Facebook did this was to create more avenues where people can click from their homepage to other people’s profiles. Often times with Facebook, if they are making changes, the ultimate purpose is to get you to click on more links, which drives up the number of page clicks, which drives up the number of pages on which ads can be placed.

So there are some self-serving reasons why Facebook makes these types of changes, but the user also benefits, because it brings more information to us about the people who are already our Facebook friends.

If it’s a person who you’re not interested in, go to their profile, click to new “subscribe” button, and you can unsubscribe to receiving updates on the person’s information. Once again, the ability to remove people’s information from your news feeds is not a new thing with Facebook, it’s just something most people haven’t known about.

Did Facebook change because of Google+?

Google+ had so much hype when it came out. Everyone wanted invites. Then people realized something, “Oh. Google+ isn’t very good.” And they stopped using it. The usage statistics of Google+ are pathetic.

The site has about as much activity as the Chernobyl power grid.

Yesterday, it was announced that anyone could join Google+ (as opposed to the earlier format they had in which you had to be invited to register).

Some people have this conspiracy theory that it’s no coincidence that on the same day Google+ allows anyone to join, Facebook makes these changes. On many levels, that is absurd. For starters, Facebook couldn’t possibly decide to make those changes and then implement them in one day. Secondly, for people who follow technology news, these changes aren’t surprising. The facts that Facebook was changing the newsfeed and that they were adding Ticker were not secrets.

Facebook did not undergo a layout overhaul because of anything Google+ said.

Everything will be fine

For a long time, Facebook has given lots of options about controlling which profiles and status updates show up on your News Feed. Recently, they have created even more options with the ability to create lists, where it shows updates based off of the lists that you’ve created. If you’re really deadset about what goes onto your News Feed, there are ways to make tweaks.

When I joined Facebook, the News Feed didn’t exist. If we wanted to see a friend’s profile we had to – brace yourself for this – t-y-p-e t-h-e-i-r n-a-m-e. Oh gosh, it was horrible. I really don’t know how we survived.

For an amusing look at how people react to changes on Facebook, this comic from the Oatmeal says it all:
http://theoatmeal.com/pl/state_web_winter/facebook_layout

jrb

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