Facebook Users Redouble Protest Efforts

Facebook fans unhappy about the site's most recent design changes are mobilizing to make their voices heard and plead with management to bring back the old look.

At issue is Facebook's new appearance and functionality that's intended to give the site a friendlier, timelier feel. Some reviewers have given the changes an overall thumbs up. However, tens of thousands of users are opposed to the changes, and want to force Facebook to return some old features.

The apparent emulation of Twitter was at the top of many complaints, prompting some to refer to the new Facebook design as "Twitbook". Typical of comments was Amy Hommes': "when i go on facebook i want to talk to my friends, not STALK them. this new layout is too stalker-ish. it'll attract all the creeps."

Nicole Fratrik agreed: "It also seems as though you all wanted to change to twitter. I don't want twitter, that's why I have facebook."

At least seven Facebook groups have been flooded with mostly negative posts about the latest changes. Cross-posting makes it impossible to easily determine a total number of dissenters, but the sheer volume is impressive. The largest group is 2.6 million strong. However, it was launched last July and also addresses Facebook's recent Terms of Service troubles.

In fact, most of the complaint groups were originally formed in previous years to protest earlier redesigns dating back as far as September 2006. These older Facebook groups have changed their mission statements to reflect feelings about the latest redesign.

However, 10,000,000 Against the New Facebook, Change it Back, formed March 12, had attracted 361,000 members by Wednesday afternoon. Another group has garnered 100,000 votes on the new layout, and at least one cause, with over 34,000 members, has been started.

Two groups specifically address their wish to have the old Live Feed feature back.

A few Facebook members have turned the protest into a personal crusade. Computer consultant, actor and comedian Jason Kulas compiled a protest guide for other users, including how to contact executives and the media.

There isn't much about the new Facebook that Kulas likes, as he notes, "I can put up with virtually any sort of cosmetic change, even their latest cluttered, screen-space-wasting, 'simple', child-oriented, large-print, mono-font, photo-laden, extra-super-wide-screen, ad-filled, no-longer-real-time, badly-Twitter-emulating, 'ease of use' mis-design. But the rest of this re-design is mostly 'steps backward', removing functionality & choice."

Kulas' complaints, and another list by Manchester, N.H. project manager Matt Leavitt, identified the following issues:

* "Real-time" Twitterlike updating of friends' activities. "Which isn't even real-time because the new feed lags greatly behind the Live Feed and News Feed of before," says Kulas.

* The new single-option news feed shows too much information and is not as customizable as before. Says Leavitt, "There are no more filtering capabilities with the exception of either an ALL or NOTHING setting for individual friends. There used to be a multitude of filtering options of not only being able to turn off completely an individual friend's updates, but you could also raise or lower the importance of other updates such as statuses, comments, photos, etc. This was extremely useful. It's abominable that Facebook actually removed so much functionality from their GUI."

* Removal of the compact live feed option. Says Kulas, "The new feed gives you all of the trivia, in a space-wasting format, but none of the depth that Live Feed offered." And Leavitt: "[It used to] show you every status update, friend add, and comment, all updated on the fly without having to refresh. This was extremely useful to people who wanted to potentially see friends that they might be connected to, or just to not have to worry about refreshing the page every time they wanted to see an update, which you are now *required* to do."

* The "giant" fonts. Leavitt: "They increased the font size of updates as if we were either children or geriatrics, and cluttered the page up so much it's difficult to find anything."

* "What's on your mind," which replaces "what are you up to?" is annoyingly touchy-feely. Leavitt: "No offense to Facebook, but if I really typed in what was on my mind, they would have to ban me."

However, a few fans of the new look are speaking up. Writes Joe Savage of Charlotte, N.C.: "I must differ here, and say, I do quite like it...I mean, yeah, its a change, and yeah, its slightly confusing at first...but, it's actually more intuitive, if you aren't brainwashed into liking the old one..."

But they may be in the minority. The #1 search Wednesday on Facebook was the phrase "old facebook".

But barring some miracle about-face from Facebook executives, who have remained silent on their blogs, this new look also will prevail and today's complaints will grow old on the back pages of yesteryear's protest groups.

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