Why Does Facebook Keep Changing Itself?

Facebook IconThe complaints are rampant. People are angry!

What are “top stories” exactly?  Where’s the old picture viewer?  Why did they put that black box around my photos?  It seems like every other week Facebook is launching some goofy change or moving things around or adding some strange interface that no one was asking for but everyone now must figure out. Why do they do this instead of just keeping things the way they are?  Here are 5 possible explanations – Facebook may not be as guilty as you think.

1.  Facebook doesn’t want you to forget who’s in charge.

They’re in charge.  You’re using their free service in exchange for them feeding you ads and mining your data.  That’s how Facebook pays their bills so you don’t have to. They need to keep you on your toes every now and then and make you mad just for the heck of it… why?  Same reason parents need to ground their kids sometimes or dish out overly harsh punishments that don’t fit the transgressions. The kids need to be reminded who’s in charge.  Don’t get greedy.  Mom and Dad rule.

2.  They need you to talk about them even if it’s negative.

It’s been said that tolerance is far worse than persecution because at least persecution is a sign of interest.  If Facebook gets negative feedback or press from it’s users it’s still ok as long as its not too frequent. Why?  So you’ll say the word “Facebook.”  It needs to stay a household name.  If you’re mad at it that’s still ok.  There’s a fairly precise formula you can use to find the sweet spot of how often someone should get mad at you for maximum yield. Facebook knows it and they want you to be mad at them every once in a while. Your anger is the Ying to their Yang.  I’m guessing that Facebook wants you to be ticked off at it about 4 times per year.

3.  They’re messing with you to see how big of a deal certain types of changes are.

Facebook probably already knows which major changes they’re going to keep or not but they still launch them all anyway because they want to watch the dialogue unfold amongst Facebook users. This is smart. This is like if you own a Taco Bell franchise, dress in plain clothes and then instruct your cooks to purposefully make orders wrong so you can overhear customers talk about it.  This will help you know if other changes you’re planning are going to be worth it or not or how much manpower to invest in quality control.  It’s worth a lot more to make people mad in a controlled environment where you can eavesdrop on them than out on the range where you’re not in a power position over them.

4.  Facebook jumbles things up just for the heck of it.

Ever get bored with how your living room is laid out?  Ever re-arrange your office for no particular reason even though it was fine the way it was?  Moving stuff around for no reason is a perfectly suitable reason in and of itself. Why?  Because it’s better to have friction than to be dormant. It’s better to have things in motion than at rest.  This is the law of the information age; The new darwinism is merely constant self-reinvention so that you out-survive your competitors (those that never change).  It doesn’t matter if your change is for the better or not, it just matters that you change.  Irrelevance is the ultimate suicide for technology companies.  Your chances of survival go up by 500% if you make negative changes rather than no changes at all. It’s the law of the digital jungle.  Being the school bully still makes you more popular than all the nice kids who’s names you forgot from middle school.

5.  The internet needs to constantly feel new.

This goes along with the last point.  You always need to feel romanced and captivated by your online experience.  Fresh, funky, shiny, new.  If you’re not getting that from one social network then you’ll go find it somewhere else. So Facebook and others need to continue making their experience feel new to you. They’ll try new features, moving stuff to new locations, new partnerships, technology platform crossovers, mobile experiences, partnering with Hollywood, etc… whatever it takes. But the point is if they aren’t constantly manufacturing something “new” they die off.

So if you don’t like Facebook’s new changes then relax- They’ll change it all to something else in a couple months.  But don’t get too comfortable if you like those changes because they’ll just change them again. Why?  It’s the self-replicating trap of the information age- Only the new shall survive.

- Jon Barnes

Thoughts?  Post a comment.

  1. You nailed it. :-) Have you seen what Robert Scoble is talking about when he uses the term “The game of games”? It might be interesting further reading to this article.

  2. Thanks for this article. You explained the reasons very well. I thought facebook just wanted to keep changing itself in order for its users to stay by adding new features or what-so-ever. But you’ve given me many reasons why and I really appreciate that. Thanks again.

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