The Constancy of Facebook Changes

The only constant is change. Especially in tech. Everything is either upgraded or replaced with something newer. The iPhone, iOS, Android, PCs, Macs, Twitter, Facebook, and so on. So if changes and upgrades are inevitable, why is it that Facebook changes engender such vehement backlash from a significant chunk of its users? In other words, why does it piss people off so much?

John Constine, Inside Facebook:

Facebook’s strategy over the years has been to gradually test and roll out changes, but between the last week and f8 the service will have changed dramatically in a short period of time. Newer users already feeling overwhelmed with the site, such as older age groups, may give up if too many features suddenly change. Facebook might consider delaying any changes not directly tied into the major Platform announcements until users adjust.

So maybe it’s that this current overhaul has been so abrupt? A friend of mine pointed out that no one really complains when the iPhone is updated every year. The difference is that people expect that. They wait for it. They want new phones. With Facebook, arguably one of the most used social networks in the world (Read: 750 million users), most users are quite happy with how it works. The question then becomes one of change due to necessity versus changing for the sake of it. Where does Facebook fall?

I quoted Mike Elgan before when he said: “But Facebook is looking increasingly like a one-trick pony that doesn’t have the vision to reinvent itself for the post-Facebook era.” The thing is, with Google+ arriving on the scene with its then-unique features, Facebook has stepped up and added changes that might help it stay relevant. It has reinvented itself. And given the nature of social networks, people are annoyed which in turn leads others to agree, and you get this groundswell of ‘dislike’. If you’re going to make all 750 million of your users change to a new layout, I’d say you’re gonna get a little backlash.

But I expect that opinion isn’t as negative as it would seem. People who hate the new layout are wont to be more vocal than the masses who are fine with it, so you hear a lot less about how the new layout is fine and a lot more about how it sucks. Plus there are a number of good things in the changes, such as the increase of the post limit from 500 characters to 5000.

At the end of the day, we’re not going to leave Facebook. Our friends are there. Our photos are there. Our social circles (Hello, G+!) are there. And no matter what happens, we’re gonna get used to the new changes and it’ll grow on us. Until it changes again, and the complaints begin anew. Rinse and repeat.


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