I have come to the conclusion that Facebook must want to drive every single one of its users away. The past two years they have consistently made changes to the site which are unpopular with many, if not most, of their users. In 2008 they rolled out a new design of Facebook which seemed to be universally hated. Despite many protests, they never gave users back the old design which they preferred. It was only a few months later that they changed the design again, once more causing anger amongst its users.Now it seems that they are at it again. Facebook's current plan is to do away with profile boxes. To say a lot of users are unhappy with Facebook once again is putting it lightly.
For those of you who don't know what a profile box is, a profile box is a small box for an application which one can add to his or her profile. An example of a popular profile box is the one for the Doorbell application, an application which lets people know they've visited your profile by ringing your doorbell (essentially a image map of a doorbell). Profile boxes have been around since Facebook adopted their new design in 2008, and they have proved fairly popular with users. Beyond providing users with fast access to an application, they are also a means of personalising one's profile. They make one's profile unlike anyone else's.
Unfortunately, Facebook now wants to do way with profile boxes entirely. They claim that they want to "...improve the user experience and promote consistency across the site." That having been said, I fail to see how removing profile boxes will improve the users' experience on the site, as in one foul swoop it will make it more difficult to access one's favourite applications, not to mention cause one's once personalised profile to look like everyone else's. I will grant that it will promote consistency across the site, but I fail to see how consistency on a social networking site is even desirable. Much of the whole point of a social networking site is to be able to express oneself, to be able to display one's personality. Because each person is unique, it should not even be desirable for profiles to be consistent.
It then seems to me that either Facebook is horribly out of touch with their users (which seems quite possible with their track record of making unpopular changes to the site) or they have ulterior motives which they are not telling users. At the very least, removing profile boxes seems about as popular as the new design was and the further changes they made a few months later. All of these changes were unwanted by users, all the while Facebook seemingly ignored user's pleas for changing back to the old Facebook or doing away with unpopular changes. In some respects Facebook's attitude to its users reminds me of a stalker who simply will not take, "No," for an answer. No matter how preposterously aggressive or disagreeable his behaviour is, he goes on thinking, "I'll make her love me." Quite simply, Facebook insists on making changes that no one wants or no one needs. Rather than improving the user's experience, they have consistently made it worse.
While so far none of the unpopular changes made by Facebook has driven away its users, I suspect it will only be a matter of time before they will. There are those who attribute the decline of MySpace to the thought that it was simply a "fad." Personally, I do not think that is why MySpace started losing users. I think it is more because MySpace made change after change after change until the site was no longer usable. MySpace's decline should be a warning to Facebook to try to please its users rather than making unpopular changes.
Indeed, I can think of many things they could do away with on Facebook that would improve my experience of the site. Among these would be the ability to edit bookmarks, basically links to applications or Facebook features such as photos or groups. Among these bookmarks are ones for an applications page and one for a games page, neither of which are particularly useful. Unfortunately, they are the two bookmarks one cannot remove. Another improvement Facebook could make that would please me would be to set the news feed so it shows the most recent posts first rather than so called "top news." Of course, since I would actually like those changes, I can guarantee Facebook will never make them.
According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, Facebook ranks in the bottom percent of all indexed companies in the private sector. Only airlines and cable companies rank as low. The reasons for customer dissatisfaction with Facebook? According to Larry Freed, CEO of ForeSee Results, the company which conducts the American Customer Satisfaction Index, it comes down to "frequent changes to the site," "advertising intruding on customer satisfaction," and "privacy concerns." Given that these results were just released last month, Facebook had best take notice of them. They could start with keeping the profile boxes. If not, they might find themselves in the same boat as MySpace next year.