Dear Facebook: Please Try Harder

Facebook, I gotta hand it to you. You’ve done a fine job. Everybody’s on Facebook. My mom’s on Facebook. You somehow suckered Microsoft into giving you $240M. Nightly news commentators make comments about you in their pointless banter. By all accounts, you’re on top of the world.

So why do you seem so desperate?

I know, I know. All of Web 2.0 (you included) is driven by ad revenue. That means you need to drive people to your site and keep you there. No problem there, it seems. Facebook junkies spend hours and days flipping through their News Feed and profiles. And by the looks of it, your advertising strategy is to stay relatively inobtrusive, and off to the side. No flashing banners. I might get a flyer in the sidebar sometimes, but not always. Which makes me think maybe you’re not scrambling desperately after every single eyeball at every possible instant.

Why, then, don’t you send message text in your email message notifications? Would that be so hard? You sent me an email message just to say “To read this message, follow the link below:”?

You know, I don’t really mind your site too terribly. But I’d probably like it more if I didn’t feel like I was being coerced into using it.

And then there’s Facebook Applications, each one desperately trying to be more viral than the last. At least you give me warning that you’re going to sell me out to third parties before I get suckered into installing one. I appreciate having the opportunity to say no.

I admit, though, I like being able to get various online things that I do into my profile so that people who like your site in and of itself can get easy access to it. That’s fantastic.

However, surely it must have occurred to you that it really needs to go both ways. I’m not going to put anything into your site that I can’t get out again. I already feel bad that I’ve accrued as much relationship networking stuff in there that I’ll never be able to get out again. You’re not going to be around forever. The next time I sign up for one of these social networking sites, I’m going to have to start all over again, re-establishing all the same relationships, presuming any of my friends have signed up. And again, the time after that. And the time after that. It makes me a bit sad that there’s no free and open platform that let’s me say “I trust this person; they can see my stuff,” but there isn’t. You could have been that, but you seem more preoccupied building up your walled garden.

And just because there isn’t an open platform now doesn’t mean there won’t be forever. And what do you know? It looks like Google is out to eat your lunch.

You have so much potential, but from the outside looking in, you’re squandering it. You could be doing things that might make your users lives easier, like better filtering to cut down on the horrible spaminess of the News Feed page, or allowing me more control over who can see what than just assigning people to my “limited profile.” I’d like that. Instead you’re… I’m not even sure what you’re doing. What are you doing?

Well, whatever it is, good luck with it. You’ve got me on your site, and I feel a bit dirty about it. I like being able to keep up with old friends and acquaintances, but I feel no particular fealty to you. When they abandon you, I will to.

2 thoughts on “Dear Facebook: Please Try Harder”

  1. I agree.

    (Or in a more AOL fashion… Me too!)

    I still like the look and feel of MSN (now Live) Spaces… too bad it’s got its own issues.

  2. I was going to ask “isn’t Spaces just blogging,” but then I logged into the site and was surprised to see that it (apparently) swipes people out of your MSN Messenger friends list and gives you little profile updates about them. Plus photos and crap, I guess.

    That was a bit unsettling, seeing status updates about someone I dated a couple of times two years ago.

    If I work myself up to it, I’ve got a couple more social networking posts in the queue. I just needed to get this off my chest.

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