Blog: Finding Out What's Wrong With the New Facebook (With a Little Help From My Friends)

Blog: Finding Out What's Wrong With the New Facebook (With a Little Help From My Friends)

Yarmis' comment centers around what many believe was the strategy of Facebook with the redesign: as Michael Arrington wrote on Techcrunch, it seems that Facebook wanted to make the site look more like FriendFeed, an aggregator social networking site (pretty much RSS on steroids) that allows friends to share content with one another by showing their activities on bookmarking sites like or status updates on Twitter.

While I definitely agree with Arrington's point that this might have been Facebook's aim with the new design, it's not clear that this was a good strategy yet given the negative reviews by users, especially Facebook's younger users, who I'd argue, even given the site's broader appeal, are the site's base voters.

So far, the idea that social technologies, from a design standpoint, should go the way of a Friendfeed or other flow apps has been more the insular belief of tech bloggers, journalists and social media evangelists (and now Facebook designers) rather than normal social networking users themselves. While the former group might have felt reaffirmed in their opinion by the Facebook redesign, it's not clear to me that the mainstream audience (if these new anti-New Facebook groups are any indication) agree.

Simply put: If 20 somethings who are on Facebook by the millions don't think it's a good design (and because they dwarf the Friendfeed and Twitter users of the world in numbers), their opinion might matter more.

One person who has thought a lot about the opinions of the young masses on the Web and comparing them with the older generation is Don Tapscott, the Wikinomics author who is writing a book "Growing Up Digital" set to come out later this year. Tapscott, who is in his early 60s, replied to my Facebook thread and expressed praise for Facebook's improved privacy settings. He also likes the emphasis on information instead of the profile page itself. "Among other things, it takes me right to what's new instead of my own profile," he wrote.

All of the people I have mentioned, however, deal with technology pretty directly for their livelihoods, so I was curious to see what a non-technologist thought. My old high school buddy Michael Zesk, 24, seemed the perfect candidate. A religious studies major in college, he is teaching right now at a school in Mongolia.

"I don't really know or care about most of the new features," he says. "All I know is that as a casual user, I no longer know how to easily access the content that I use. Also, it seems to be quite a bit slower."

Zesk's response highlighted what most normal tech consumers look for (and what companies like Apple have never wavered from): it often comes down to aesthetics and ease of use. Despite the Facebook brass contending the new Facebook achieves that goal, he, like others, clearly thinks it fell short short.

Anecdotally, I think that says a lot, since Facebook aims to hit a broad audience. With that in mind, should we all surrender to the flow or stream-like apps the evangelists (and Facebook) are pushing, or should we (perhaps futilely) wish for the days of old?

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