Facebook Friends Say Homepage Changes Are Confusing, Annoying

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-10-26

Facebook Friends Say Homepage Changes Are Confusing, Annoying

Facebook has something of a revolt on its hand after altering the homepage to let users toggle back and forth between a regular News Feed and a Live Feed Oct. 23.

The News Feed aims to provide info about what might be of interest to users, while the Live Feed shows users what is happening now.

The changes sparked criticism over the weekend from several users, who vented in Facebook Groups such as I Automatically Hate The New Facebook Home Page group, as well as in the comments section of news stories.

After eWEEK published "Facebook Offers Real-time, Highlight Reel News Feed for the Homepage" Oct. 24, several users wrote to complain that the changes were confusing or annoying. Others, however, accepted the changes.

First, the complainants. Baby Boomer FB User wrote:

"The new changes in what shows up ion [sic] News feed, Profile, and Status Updates (with no explanation at all, as far as I can see, so far) are totally confusing. I don't give a hoot what my FB Friends prefer. Just because we are virtual friends, or even real friends, does not ensure that we share tastes and preferences. It is a nuisance now to sort through stuff to find posts from them that are interesting. Too bad."

Keeth wrote: 

"FB has fallen fast. The new changes are terrible. Either FB tells me what I can see, or it shows me everything. In either feed, the info is old and incomplete. I cannot join groups. I cannot add comments. Links go to the wrong places. Pictures posted do not show up. Adding content brings up an error message most of the time ..."

One anonymous reader added:

"This is a horrid change. All of my customizations of various 'hide's is gone. I didn't want this app or that group spamming me. I used to be able to control that quite well by simply hiding the offenders. Now I have to use filters that seem to block people rather than apps. The hide box only lists people, not apps. I don't want to kill getting all feeds from certain friends, but I really don't care about their fake cows."

Not Everybody Hates the Homepage Changes. Really.

Meanwhile, some users at least recognized that Facebook is entitled to change the free service as it sees fit to improve the user experience. Don wrote: "I like the new look" though he didn't say exactly what he liked about it.

Dave wrote:

"I love how everyone has such a crazy opinion on facebook and how this and that is the worst thing ever to happen. It is a free service that is really pretty cool to use and costs us nothing but out [sic] time. It has allowed me to get back in touch with lost friends and better keep up with more current friends. Its great and people should be very thankful we are able to use it for free. If you don't like it don't use it but stop complaining about it."

Eric added: 

"Isn't FB a free service? I think this gives them every right to change anything they want. Until you start paying for the service you have no say in how it is run. Get over yourselves."

However, Morpheus responded to Eric:

"It is a community driven service. Take away the users and FB is nothing. People have invested their time and in some cases money creating and using apps, clicking on ads, etc. They have every right to complain when FB does something that threatens to anger the community and drive people away from it in disgust. Nothing in life is 'free' and nothing is ever as simple as you seem to think it is."

Morpheus has a wise take (as one might expect from someone taking the name from The Matrix's Morpheus, one of the most storied hackers in Hollywood film lore).

It is true that Facebook has a lot of latitude-some might say complete latitude-over the changes it makes to its social network. The service is free and incredibly useful for users trying to connect with long-lost friends, or even with people in fellow college dorms.

However, many users have invested their lives in this social network, building applications and conducting other actions, such as business marketing, both activities that directly affect their livelihood. This means it is incumbent on Facebook to think carefully about how the changes it makes could disrupt the lives-social or professional-of its users.

When alerted to the backlash, and asked what, if anything, the social network would do to address the changes, a Facebook spokesperson responded via e-mail:

"Whenever we launch new products, we listen carefully to our users about what specific changes we can make to improve their experiences on the site. Our User Operations and User Experience teams help us in responding to users' e-mails and gathering insights we use for future iterations of the product. We encourage people to continue to send us constructive, detailed feedback and are committed to using it to inform how we build and improve the site for everyone."

Clearly, there are no active plans to change the service back. However, if enough users complain in this mini-revolt, Facebook will have no choice but to do an about-face, recalling the Beacon advertising fiasco of 2007.

The question remains: How many of the 300 million users will have to voice their dislike for the homepage changes for Facebook to take evasive action?  


Rocket Fuel