Dear Facebook: You’ll probably be drunk at midnight when 2014 rolls in, but we need to talk. You need to do some self-improvement, because you’ve become really annoying lately. So much so that I barely want to hang out with you anymore. Here are 7 New Year’s Resolutions I wish you would make…
#1: Value Your Users More Than Your Advertisers
You’re an advertising company, and you have acquired more personal information about us than any other company in history. We’ve handed you everything you need to know in order to serve us ads that we might be lured into clicking. But Facebook, you’ve become very short-sighted. You’re focusing on pleasing the advertisers, rather than the users.
Yes, we are the product being sold. But unless you keep users happy, you will soon have no one left to advertise to. Users don’t pay you the money, but they are your customers too. Zuckerberg should ponder these quotes from Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon:
“You want your customers to value your service.”
“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It's our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”
“We've had three big ideas at Amazon that we've stuck with for 18 years, and they're the reason we're successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient.”
#2: Give Users The News Feed We Want
I know you say that your complex news feed algorithms are an attempt to give us the most interesting and relevant stories out of thousands. But we’re not stupid. We know you’re just manipulating the content in order to charge Pages and advertisers for their posts to actually be visible to users. And let’s face it – your algorithms are terrible. Everyone I talk to is becoming disenchanted with their news feed.
Most users just want an unfiltered, chronological news feed of things their Friends and Pages post. You know, like Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and every blog on the planet. Stop trying to tell us what we should want to see, and let us decide instead. If we see too many political rants by Uncle Bob, we’ll hide him. Assuming you don’t take away that feature.
#3: Stop Tinkering – If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It
Features pop in and out at random as you test new code, layout changes, design tweaks, and functionality “enhancements”. When my wife calls me to ask why she is seeing these annoying “Most Popular Posts from 2012” at the top of her news feed, I load up mine and I don’t even see the same thing. Nobody knows what they are going to get anymore or how it works.
Facebook has become like driving a car whose instruments are in different places every time you get in, or randomly disappear entirely. We like continual improvement, but not constant random tinkering. We don’t have time to re-learn how to use Facebook every 2 weeks. It’s really annoying.
#4: Stop Promising Features You Never Deliver
Remember the awesome new News Feed design that you announced 9 months ago? Remember the press conference, blog coverage, and slick videos telling us how amazing it will be? Remember how users waited and waited to get moved to the new redesign? Remember how you never actually rolled it out, and in fact scrapped the whole thing because you discovered that users didn’t actually like it? Seriously. You need to stop doing that.
#5: Make Privacy The Default
You want users to share more and tag more and like more and comment more, because it lets you harvest more data. But privacy matters, and by default Facebook should be private. With each update to the privacy settings, you make it more complicated and more difficult to communicate only with those people you wish to.
Instead of gathering better personal data by reducing default privacy, you are making people afraid to say anything of substance because they are never sure who will see it. When I see a friends’ comment on a Page I’ve never heard of, on a topic that might embarrass them, and it’s shown up front and center in my news feed, something is wrong. Living in the spotlight is fun for a while, and then people get sick of it and leave. You need to make users feel comfortable that their every move and click is not being broadcast to their friends, neighbors, and co-workers, otherwise they won’t want to use your site anymore.
#6: Add A Few Simple, Reasonable Features
I had such high hopes for Facebook a couple years ago. I thought it would morph into the social site that would bring many of my interactions under one umbrella, and streamline my life so much. Instead, it’s kind of just gotten in the way, which is why I - like many others, it seems - are slowly moving away from it. In all your endless tinkering and billions spent, you still haven’t managed to add a few key features that I feel should be near the top of the list:
- Let me mark posts as “read” so I don’t see them again. Like my email Inbox, I don’t want to see old messages every time I start up Facebook. I’ve already read them, so let me tuck them away so they don’t show up when I load up Facebook on my phone later! And no, I can’t just “Hide” them, because I’m afraid I’m feeding your broken algorithm, and you’ll start showing me fewer posts like the one I’m hiding.
- Let me turn off comments and likes on posts. Sometimes I just don’t want any engagement. Or I want to put an end to a comment thread that has gone off-topic.
- Let me turn off notifications when non-friends “Like” my comment on a public Page or Group. I really don’t care, and it’s filling up my notifications list.
- Let me filter my news feed by keyword or author. I never, ever, ever want to see cosplay. Ever.
- Let me enable photo tag approval, but whitelist my wife. I trust her. It’s okay.
- Make your calendar usable. Imagine how great it would be if I could quickly ask 10 friends which dates works best for a party, and give them 4 options to vote on. Imagine if I could integrate my Facebook calendar with my Google calendar!
- Stop sending Messages to my Other folder! And stop doing it for others! This is the lamest attempt at Inbox control I’ve ever seen.
- Let me do basic mail message filtering based on keyword. Much better.
- Oh, I can give you more. Call me.
#7: Take A Few Hints From Social Fixer
Social Fixer is a browser extension that tries to fix a bunch of your user interface failures and add new features that are actually useful. Of course, this is the blog of the extension’s site, so this is kind of blatant self-promotion, isn’t it?
Well, only kind of. There are over a 1.5 Million people who use Social Fixer (growing every day), so clearly there is demand for its functionality. A tabbed news feed, post filtering, marking posts as read, making the news feed stay on Most Recent, show full time stamps, etc. And that’s not even including the features you demanded be removed, like the Friend Tracker that notified users when they were unfriended.
You’ve already taken a number of features from the extension and put them into the site. That’s cool. But wouldn’t it be better to work with someone who is clearly in tune with what many users want, rather than work against him?
“Social Fixer and Facebook, they’re both so intense… put ‘em together, it just makes sense!” – Olaf, 2013
[Bonus #8: Make That Matt Kruse Guy A Millionaire]
Okay, this one is a little selfish. If you can offer Snapchat $3 Billion, couldn’t you pass along a little cash to the guy who works hard to keep your site usable? Yes, generous users send me donations to support the project, but they cover the bills and go to my family vacation fund. It’s not like I’m getting rich from my work.
I’m available for consulting. Our you can just buy me out and hire me to fix the site from the inside. Your choice.
Good Luck In 2014, Facebook!
I hope you make some changes to improve yourself. I think you’ll find that people will like you more, and that’s not such a bad thing, is it? Happy New Year, Facebook!
– Matt Kruse, developer of Social Fixer