If you are one of the 750 million Facebook users, you probably noticed a few changes recently. I’ve heard a lot of people complaining about the changes, but are the changes really bad? Or is it just that Facebook represents the comfort of friends and family and is now bumping us out of our comfort zone? Are the changes useful and what the heck is Facebook’s problem anyway?
Rest assured that Facebook isn’t out to make your life miserable. It is in their best interest to provide the best user experience that they can. In the world of online social media, that means keeping up or getting ahead of the competition. Also, Facebook is in it to make money, just like any other business.
So, why all the changes? Though Facebook is the largest of the social networks, they still keep a close eye on the competition, and they should. They don’t want to become the next MySpace. MySpace was the most visited website in the US just 5 years ago. Now they rank number 91. With new offerings like Google Plus coming on the scene, Facebook has to stay on its toes. One of Facebook’s new features appears to be a direct response to Google Plus Circles. Facebook now allows you to group your friends into categories and to share content with specific groups while excluding others.
Some of the changes are meant to give users more control over their content and how it is portrayed. This often means that to give that control they have to introduce more complexity.
Another new feature reminds me of the stream of twitter messages that you see when using Tweet Deck. Facebook has what they are calling a Ticker running on the right side of the screen that shows you the realtime feed of your friends’ updates.
Facebook has tried to capture as many elements of the other social media sites as they can. They compete with Classmates.com and similar sites with features that make it easy to find old classmates. They compete with sites like Flickr, Craigslist, and others. I expect Facebook to use the power of their social enterprise to take on sites like Angieslist as well.
But why all the other cosmetic changes? I think it is likely that some of the menu changes are meant to keep users from getting bored, and to force them to spend more time on the site trying to figure out how to do everything they used to do. While people are exploring and learning the new features, they are exposed to more of Facebook’s ads.
Oh, and guess what? Facebook announced that they are making even more changes before the end of the year.