Facebook’s Feeds

FacebookThe other morning my oldest daughter Jessica, a Facebook fan, said to me, "Dad one of the great things about Facebook is that they are constantly adding cool new things". That’s one of the things I believe is critical to do with web apps/services – always add new stuff, surprise your user base.

So I asked her to show me this cool new thing. It was an feed of activities of her contacts on Facebook. Instead of having to navigate around Facebook, she was being presented with her daily newspaper of activity. She saw, for example, that one of her friends had just broken up with his girlfriend (he changed his status from taken to single). It was one of those moments where you see something and realize you are looking into the future.

That got me off the dime and into Facebook. Here’s my profile in case you are interested in being my friend (I’ve got a post working on that topic too). You can also read my blog on my Facebook profile page if you like, I imported it via my FeedBurner feed.

I did some reading up on this new move by Facebook and found this quote from Mark Zuckerberg on Forbes.com:

"Before, it was an encyclopedia model, but now we’re changing to a news model"

This is a big deal. Social networks to date have been these big unmanageable messes. Facebook is addressing that by giving users a tool to consolidate the information they care about (Jessica’s friend tagged four photos with her name the other day – that’s worth knowing).

But apparently many of the users don’t like it. Jessica told me last night, "people are really upset about this new information on Facebook". She said she thinks its great, but many of her friends don’t like it.

Well Jessica is right. The users are upset. This article in MediaPost this morning talks about the significant user revolt over the new Facebook view. Almost 300,000 of Facebook’s 9 million users have joined a protest group.

Mark Zuckerberg wrote a post on the Facebook blog yesterday called Calm down. Breathe. We hear you. He says:

And we agree, stalking isn’t cool; but being able to know what’s going
on in your friends’ lives is. This is information people used to dig
for on a daily basis, nicely reorganized and summarized so people can
learn about the people they care about. You don’t miss the photo album
about your friend’s trip to Nepal. Maybe if your friends are all going
to a party, you want to know so you can go too. Facebook is about real
connections to actual friends, so the stories coming in are of interest
to the people receiving them, since they are significant to the person
creating them.

He goes on to say:

The privacy rules haven’t changed. None of your information is visible
to anyone who couldn’t see it before the changes. …..  We’re going to continue to improve Facebook, and we want you to be part
of that process. Test out the products and continue to provide us
feedback. Use your privacy settings so you can feel most comfortable
using the site.

It’s a good post. In my experience when users are passionate about a service, they often react negatively to new stuff. Facebook is changing the experience in a significant way by surfacing in a very efficient (but also very public) way the data that is already in the system.

Users will have to react to this. They’ll have to think more about their privacy options. Or just get used to it. Because this is what the power of feeds and social networks is all about. This is the future.