Three Problems With Facebook

The social network Facebook is, of course, ubiquitous and nearly omnipotent at the moment. If it wants to remain that way, it might want to address these three issues:

1. Facebook’s mobile experience still sucks. Their iPhone app is still astonishingly sluggish, to the point where I sometimes click on the wrong stuff like a fat-fingered newbie. It is also almost identical to their mobile web site, m.facebook.com. Forget about answering “how will Facebook monetise mobile?” The first question the company should answer is: how can we make our app really¬†fun? How can we keep users from relegating it to the “wasteland” — the last page of abandoned apps on a user’s phone.

2. Facebook does not encourage discussion between social strata. Allow me to explain. Twitter is essentially a global “social membrane,” as I see it at least, where value is discerned and then swiftly propagated. In other words, a random dude with 50 followers who tweets something very important and/or time sensitive to a follower on the network with 5,000,000 followers may get retweeted enough times that the “famous” individual takes notice and retweets it, propagating the information and conveying serious value downward to the 50 follower random dude.

This is a two-way street: big names, powerful people, and even large corporations hear from the little folks directly, bypassing the “filter” and getting a serious feel for what is actually happening in the world. This adds value. Similarly, low value users are rewarded because they know there is a chance that high value users will take notice and spread their message.

Facebook just doesn’t do this. Sure, all of your friends may share the same photo of a missing child or abused dog or whatever, but top-down/down-top propagation doesn’t really occur (yet).

This lack of propagation ability between the powerful and the normal lessens the deepness of the user experience, and could damage user loyalty over time. Even Google+, especially in its early days, had a surprising amount of interplay between Google executives, celebrities, and normal users. This made the network seem fresh, full of potential, and boundless.

3. Facebook is not beautiful. Given the gobs of money Facebook has, it should be hiring the smartest UI designers and graphic designers in the world. Facebook could be beautiful, visual and inspirational looking, like a brilliant cross between Vimeo and Bing’s homepage. Instead, it is impersonal and almost vulgar in its utilitarian blue bars and boxes. Even Google has spruced up their search results pages. Time for Facebook to look 2012, not 2009.

I don’t think this final point deserves its own paragraph, but I also believe Facebook should lose every now and then. “Yeah, we were wrong about feature¬†X, that feature has been rolled back as a result of your feedback, sorry guys!”

Losing battles with users from time to time engenders a sense of community. It makes people feel like they are invested in who you are, and where you are going as a company.

Facebook should try to live up to the mythical badass, cocksure, yet innovative brand portrayed in The Social Network and elsewhere in pop culture. Not taking crazy risks will lead to failure through attrition.

Follow @d_seaman

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