Thursday, August 02, 2012

Ugh! Facebook and their New TL

The Facebook phenomenon has been a hallmark of the 3rd millennium's internet. Along with Google, Wikipedia, and perhaps now Twitter, these net tools are considered fundamental, even essential. They have stood the test of time, proved to be of tremendous utility, made the leap to mobiles, tablets, n pads, and have just kept growing, and seem to become ever more entrenched, tweak after tweak.

But the internet is a strange space, fickle, fey, and dangerous to the unwary. Many millions of inventions and innovations have come, and just as quickly been swallowed by the abyss. Success is rare and never sits comfortably nor with certainty.

I therefore was very recently surprised to open my Fb, click on my name at the top right (as usual)  and found a strange new thing. The profile page had changed, it was now unrecognizable, it was startling, and confusing. I mean, seriously, Fb expects me to zig-zag my down their page!

Looking once more, at the top was a box that said:
"Welcome to Your Timeline — Preview"

Now, I did know that Fb had rolled out this thing quite a long time ago. I had even looked at this new timeline (TL) thing on a friend's page and decided then that it was just not for me.

I had googled it then, and found that Fb 'promised' that it was optional. Those that wanted to could supposedly just keep the old look. I then fastidiously ignored the thing  despite many offers from Fb (at frequent intervals) to "try it out." 

Now, Fb has a funny way of using words. Their versions of "like" or "friend" are only one small example. Many folks along the way told me that they had 'tried' the new TL and then found that it was stuck in permanently. So, the Fb "try" =  = irrevocable. This made me even more careful, and I had avoided clicking anything anywhere near these temptingly phrased 'trial' offers.

Suddenly seeing this strange and garbled TL thing on 'my' page really irritated me. I read through the info box carefully and it was obvious that (as usual with Fb), there was no choice being offered. It was a "take it in 3 days, or take it now" offer.

I did all the usual things, lodged a complaint, sent in an email, protested on the home page itself, and then, when met with utter silence from Fb, I finally googled for a "Facebook timeline solution". 

Lo and behold, google had 86,000,000 YES millions of hits on that! Page after page after page, of proposed solutions.

Well, it was immediately heartening to see that I was not the only miffed-at-Fb person on the planet. It was also nice to see that there did seem to be such solutions as:

Solutions were apparently available for a number of browsers; Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera etc. excepting apparently IE as of now. Now, if there is enough demand for a change that apps are being created and deployed to solve the TL issue, the problem for Fb is not just a minor hiccup - it is big, perhaps even huge.

I then decided to do a bit of digging. Why on earth was Fb insisting on rolling out a change that seems to have been so universally hated? It is a distinctly odd thing for any business to do. Why not just leave well enough alone? A juicy question isn't it? So, I started doing a bit of research. No one seems to really know WHY. There is a lot of speculation though.

Here are some of the main possible Fb newTL motivations that I came up with:
1) Market research perhaps initially indicated that the new TL really is great and will make Fb even more addicting once it gets accepted, and that acceptance should follow after a minimal initial resistance.

2) The new layout offers a much greater potential for ads and ad responsiveness - which is bread & butter after all - so it HAS TO be implemented. Even a 10% loss of subscribers will be more than offset by a 50% or greater growth in promo income.

3) Zuckerberg-Fb & Co. just love their discovery so much, have put so much heart into it, and are so committed to the TL idea (that people should want to have their whole lives zig-zagging down one Fb page) that they are shoving it down everyone's throat, opinion be damned, even if some of the lemmings wake up - and even if they lose some business too.

Facebook Inc. having recently gone for a public share issue with the subsequent hugely hyped stock roll out have, I think, brought matters to a head.  The share prices have been steadily tumbling. Share prices are dependent on earnings, and the first reported results were not very encouraging. Probably, something drastic is needed on the earnings front - that means more ad revenue - that perhaps means the new TL. 

Incidentally, I did notice that in it's new avatar, my profile page actually sports very few ads, and that really is suspicious! The revenue, and flood of ads, therefore awaits the full TL roll-out...

But, there is at least one other possibility. Perhaps there is a move on to drive the share prices down.  First report equivocal earnings, then allow the TL issue to be an irritant, but do lay the foundation for much increased revenues in the future. This suspicion is reinforced by the fact that the shares given to employees are nearing the end of their lock-in periods and will shortly flood the market, especially if these folks feel that the price might be going to head south very shortly.  Large blocks of shares can then be picked up at throwaway prices. 
Or perhaps I'm just an overly suspicious sort...

Either way, the new TL experience has been fascinating. I may even renege on quitting (Fb altogether) if one of the solutions above actually continues to work. 

But one thing is sure, Fb's only concern is to make the big bucks (even bigger BIG bucks), as any well run corporation should do, and no amount of temporary angst matters at all. Neither are they overly concerned about long-term heritage issues. 

The overall feeling that one gets from Fb about the loyalty of followers, is that when Fb gives each one such a fantastic, ego-stroking, feelgood experience, the followers will remain in line. After all, one can't get anything this addicting anywhere else, and FOR FREE. 

No kidding at all - the addiction potential is so great that it is, for many, life destroying. And that's of course what also makes it addicting to advertisers - the bottom line.

If that isn't a win-win situation, what is?

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