June 29, 2012
Facebook's MO: Change Things First, Half-Answer Questions Later?
Posted on the PR Nonsense blog on June 27th by Doug Flora
Earlier this week, Facebook changed some information on your profile without asking. Don’t believe me? Check your contact information. Unless you’ve already changed it, your email address is now listed as ‘something’@facebook.com. The fix is quite easy – just click About under your profile photo, then edit your contact info so that your primary email address is visible on your profile, and your new Facebook email is hidden. Unless, of course, you actually want your email listed as ‘something’@facebook.com.
How, and why, did Facebook do this?
As a bit of background, the @facebook.com email addresses have actually existed since 2010 (which you probably either didn’t know or forgot about), basically as part of Facebook’s revamping of their message system. When you send an email to someone at their @facebook.com account, it just goes to their Facebook messages. So what’s the point? The point is, or was, to centralize all your forms of communication (chats, messages and emails) to make it “easier” for you to wade through them and keep up constant conversations with your friends.
What’s the idea behind the new profile changes? Nobody is exactly sure yet. Facebook’s official statement is that they’ve simply extended users’ ability to show or hide their profile/timeline information to their email addresses. That’s pretty vague, and doesn’t address why they automatically changed the visible email to the @facebook.com account.
Of course, this isn’t the biggest deal ever, but for many users it is annoying and represents part of a larger trend of arguably unnecessary changes, often despite negative customer feedback. These changes have included layout modifications, the “personalized” mini-feed, endless and esoteric privacy changes and most famously, Facebook Timeline (which only 111 out of my 715 Facebook friends even use at this point).
Some are saying that Facebook “just doesn’t care” how we feel about all these changes. Others have defended Facebook’s evolution as a progression towards a better and better tool for communications, and a better end user experience. What seems likely is that Zuckerberg and Co. make the changes they see as sensible, and assume that users will eventually come around to them… and if they don’t, they really don’t have anywhere else to turn, right? Let’s face it, Google+ is just not shaping up to be a real competitor.
But should Facebook be so comfortable in its monopoly over the social media industry? Remember the once-proud AOL? Once the undisputed top dog of internet service providers with some 30 million subscribers, AOL now serves only a little more than 3 million customers. 30 million might not seem like a lot compared with Facebook’s 900 million, but keep in mind that in AOL’s heyday, home internet access was the exception and not the norm.
At some point, Facebook needs to take constructive criticism seriously. All things considered, it’s more than a little pompous to change users’ contact information without warning, and without asking.