Facebook Changes Ignite Complaints, Threats of Checking Out Competition

COMMENTARY | In the early morning hours Wednesday, there was a monumental change taking place that would affect approximately 41.6 percent of the U.S. population and over 750 million people worldwide. It wasn’t the birth of an airborne disease or declaration of world war by an industrialized nation, but instead was a total revamping of the Facebook news feed.

While the update was clearly researched and had specific intentions relating to the sorting of what the website thinks you want to see, the Facebook changes were immediately met with complaints and calls to change the format back to its previous incarnation.

According to Facebook’s blog, the latest update will allow you to immediately see the things you are most interested in, such as status updates from family and close friends. In conjunction with the subscribe feature and updated friends lists that were implemented last week, the changes should help filter out things you do not care about and display the things you do care about prominently. It is also engineered to allow users who don’t visit as often to catch the top stories they missed while allowing users who are constantly connected to get the most recent posts instead.

When I consider the changes objectively with an unbiased view, I believe they are effective in doing just what Facebook says they’ll do. The platform is smarter and I don’t have to do anything for it to see who I interact with most to start filtering my feed. There are also several features that will allow me to tinker with the filters and customize the filters to exactly how I want them.

The changes are more intuitive than invasive, but there is a part of me deep down that holds a grudge against things changing on my computer.

The outcry of user complaints is shockingly similar to what we heard pertaining to the further separation of Netflix streaming and DVD by mail services. Changing is the same activity MySpace was involved in when it was overtaken by the minimalist Facebook in April 2008. Creating the perception that your network is “annoying,” especially on the day Google opens Google + to the public to praise, just seems like Facebook wants to die the same way it was born.

According to The Washington Post, the managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine, Blake Hounshell, compared the new Facebook to the Windows operating system in a tweet, saying, “[Facebook is] always asking you to update stuff, verify stuff… behaves in strange ways. Super annoying.” Hounshell’s tweet was promptly re-tweeted by 60 users.

While the response on my Facebook feed was overwhelmingly negative, fellow writer Brett Day gave the changes a rave review in a status update, stating:

“Digging the new Facebook changes; I cannot wait for Spotify, and Hulu integration. Also looking forward to the MAJOR profile changes that will be coming our way in the next few days. Change is good. Let’s face it, Facebook has no competition. Google + is failing in a major way, even Google’s CEO doesn’t use it anymore, so just accept the change.”

I will never understand why computer programs that evolve and change many times faster than any other product inspire a chronic resistance to change. Facebook has no doubt poured over thousands of pages of data, user comments and suggestions to make these improvements. In a month or two this episode will likely be forgotten, and Facebook’s status as a social commodity guarantees that it is impervious to a drop in overall users until Google + becomes a viable alternative.

If I had any advice for an Internet CEO it would be to not “fix” what isn’t broken, stay with whatever format put you on top and avoid change like you would avoid a lice-infested cowboy hat.

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