Blog Insights into great design
that delivers

Facebook’s Implicit Lesson? Don’t listen to the user

Newsfeed Hate GroupsThings aren’t always rosy in Facebook’s user experience, even before the debacle with Beacon, Facebook faced a similiar backlash over the Newsfeed when it was introduced. People were concerned that Facebook stalking was going to be elevated to a whole new level. Several of my friends told me how they were never putting anything new up, or dropping off Facebook entirely. A massive number of Facebook groups popped up (for those days), like NEWSFEED FLASH!!! FACEBOOK HAS BEEN RENAMED “STALKBOOK” or Students Against Facebook Newsfeed (Global) for users protesting against the Newsfeed. It was hard to find anyone who had anything good to say about the whole thing.

The future of using Facebook looked bleak, after all, this was before Facebook had any real privacy settings. Was Facebook destined to become the anarchy of MySpace, with all its’ stalking? Would everyone stop using Facebook like they swore they would, so that ex you broke up with, but never really could bring yourself to defriend on Facebook, wouldn’t know whenever you got dumped? What does it mean to have a constant source on everything your friends are doing?

Guess who was right?

And suddenly, it’s two years later and Facebook is holding their second App developer’s conference. Sure, there are the vestigial remains of Newsfeed-hating groups, but now the Newsfeed is a cornerstone of Facebook. Which leads me to why I wrote this post. As I was reading through TechCrunch‘s live blogging of Zuckerberg’s talk, I noticed one very interesting line:

“1:52 PM: Mark says the most powerful tool on Facebook today is the News Feed. Traffic went up by 50% when they first launched news feed in late 2006.”

Wait a second, traffic went up by 50% at the same time as when everyone was bad-mouthing Newsfeed? If it was 15%, you could say sure, some people like it, but other’s do not. When a new feature increases traffic by 50%, you’re looking at a massive endorsement by your users.

What happened was a large-scale case study confirming the UI adage “Don’t pay attention to what user’s say, pay attention to what they do.”