Just in the past month or so, Facebook rolled out new features such as Subscriptions, granular sharing, and the mini feed on the right. They have also eliminated items like the Top News/Recent News selector and Add Link (you could just include it in your status update for awhile now). None of these changes are very intrusive, but they range from annoying to inconsequential.
This morning, many sat down to see their Facebook page changed pretty drastically. The News Feed Top/Recent selector (which was obnoxious when it was first introduced) is gone. In its place is their Top Stories feature. Now Facebook will simply deliver the feed depending on how often you visit or log in. (And everybody logs out when they leave Facebook, right? Right? Otherwise you get status-jacked by your so-called ‘friends’.)
Another new change/annoyance is the loss of the Profile link at the top. You now see your name instead. ‘Home’ really means ‘News Feed’. (As with Twitter, I think these names are a little backwards from what they should be. ‘Home’ and ‘Profile’ should mean the same thing, your profile, while the Feed should have a link called ‘Feed’ or ‘Stream’ or something like that.)
It’s Just Business
By now, we are used to this. It is the nature of Facebook to annoy its users from time to time with these changes. However, lately they’ve been coming fast and furious, and it’s obvious that Google+ is seen as a real threat by the folks at Facebook.
But are these rapid-fire changes a mistake? Now that Google+ has dropped the rope, Facebook’s behavior may cause more users to check out Google+ sooner.
I’m sure developers are impressed with how quickly Facebook has been able to make radical changes, and you have to be impressed if you’re a business and operations geek as well. But users don’t care about the meta, they care about the experience. And the Facebook experience is getting a little ragged.
What Would You Do?
Taken as a whole, it just seems that Facebook wants its users to try Google+. With the new granular selections and subscription features, they are training users for Google+ and pissing people off at the same time.
Perhaps Facebook took a page from their own domination of MySpace. MySpace did not change to try to match Facebook’s features, and found itself serving a niche audience. Facebook’s leadership saw the writing on the wall, and moved to copy Google+’s feature set more closely. Was it a smart move? Or will they wind up simply as a sub-par version of Google+?
We’ll see. For my money, I think Facebook is a very new and clever way to deliver content that is not only selected by the user, but also organically generated by the user’s friends. Facebook should continue to focus on their strength: a complex online process that drives relevant material and advertising to active market participants.
But if Facebook wants to try to be Google+, I’ll bet Google couldn’t be happier.