Backlash to Facebook changes is no surprise

Facebook users love to rage about redesigns, and new changes to thesite’s News Feed have already triggered the predicable response.

Users are complaining about the changes, which emphasizealgorithmically important status updates instead of recent posts,saying that they don’t want Facebook prioritizing statusupdates, and that they’d rather just see everything in chronologicalorder.

The real news would be if Facebook users didn’t get worked up overdesign change. The latest outrage is just one of many backlashes thatFacebook has endured, none of which seem to accomplish much –except togive angry people something else to write about on Facebook.

Let’s do a little rewind to see how Facebook users have complained overthe years:

September 2006: Facebook introducesthe News Feed, which showed all your friends’ latest activityin a single timeline. This was before the age of status updates, whencruising through individual profiles for scraps of information was thething to do.

Protesters organize “A Day WithoutFacebook” to show their displeasure with perceived privacyviolations, and declares “Mission Accomplished” when Facebook adds theability to hideactivity from the News Feed. But as far as I can tell, thisoption is no longer available.

September 2008: Facebook rolls out a redesign to all users, breakingdifferent areas of the site into separate, customizable tabs. Usersdecry the redesign as “veryvery ugly” and organize protests with hundreds of thousandsof members. Tabs have since been moved to Facebook’s left sidebar, butthe idea behind them remains to this day.

March 2009: Facebook launches another major redesign, this time aroundstatus updates to better compete with Twitter. The feed updates inreal-time, while highlights appear on the right side of the screen.(Essentially, this is the opposite of how updates appear in Facebook’slatest redesign.)

The backlash is bigger than ever, as 1.7 million users cry out inprotest. Facebook makes afew tweaks to placate angry users, but sticks with the newdesign, at least temporarily.

October 2009: Facebook redesigns its home page again, introducing analgorithm to decide which status updates should be displayed first,rather than relying on chronological order. Some events that wereremoved from timelines early that year are added back, including friendacceptances and relationship statuses. In other words, Facebook makesconcessions after the big backlash of March 2009.

But users are still not satisfied, and more than onemillion of them protest to change Facebook back to the way itused to be. Some users begFacebook to bring back chronological order for news feedupdates.

November 2010: Facebook quietly reduces the font size of news feedupdates. Userscomplain on Twitter. Facebook responds — on Twitter. Weird.

December 2010: Facebook overhaulsprofile pages, most notably by boiling down user informationinto a summary at the top of the page, and by adding a strip of photosunderneath the short summary. Comments on Facebook’s blogpost are almost entirely negative.

June 2011: Facebook tests a “HappeningNow” feature on some users, showing the latest status updatesin a separate feed on the right side of the screen. Early guinea pigs hatedit. Some of them formed a “Facebooks ‘Happening Now’ HatersGroup” to commiserate.

The Happening Now feature was a precursor to the News Ticker, whichFacebook rolled out to all users this week.

I wonder what would happen if Facebook suddenly changed its design backto the way it was in 2004.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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