Facebook Redesigns: A Long History of Pointless Backlashes
By Jared Newman
Facebook users love to rage about redesigns, and new changes to the site’s News Feed have already triggered the predicable response. Users are complaining about the changes, which emphasize algorithmically important status updates instead of recent posts, saying that they don’t want Facebook prioritizing status updates, and that they’d rather just see everything in chronological order.
The real news would be if Facebook users didn’t get worked up over design change. The latest outrage is just one of many backlashes that Facebook has endured, none of which seem to accomplish much –except to give angry people something else to write about on Facebook.
Let’s do a little rewind to see how Facebook users have complained over the years:
September 2006: Facebook introduces the News Feed, which showed all your friends’ latest activity in a single timeline. This was before the age of status updates, when cruising through individual profiles for scraps of information was the thing to do.
Protesters organize “A Day Without Facebook” to show their displeasure with perceived privacy violations, and declares “Mission Accomplished” when Facebook adds the ability to hide activity from the News Feed. But as far as I can tell, this option is no longer available.
September 2008: Facebook rolls out a redesign to all users, breaking different areas of the site into separate, customizable tabs. Users decry the redesign as “very very ugly” and organize protests with hundreds of thousands of members. Tabs have since been moved to Facebook’s left sidebar, but the idea behind them remains to this day.
March 2009: Facebook launches another major redesign, this time around status updates to better compete with Twitter. The feed updates in real-time, while highlights appear on the right side of the screen. (Essentially, this is the opposite of how updates appear in Facebook’s latest redesign.)
October 2009: Facebook redesigns its home page again, introducing an algorithm to decide which status updates should be displayed first, rather than relying on chronological order. Some events that were removed from timelines early that year are added back, including friend acceptances and relationship statuses. In other words, Facebook makes concessions after the big backlash of March 2009.
But users are still not satisfied, and more than one million of them protest to change Facebook back to the way it used to be. Some users beg Facebook to bring back chronological order for news feed updates.
November 2010: Facebook quietly reduces the font size of news feed updates. Users complain on Twitter. Facebook responds — on Twitter. Weird.
December 2010: Facebook overhauls profile pages, most notably by boiling down user information into a summary at the top of the page, and by adding a strip of photos underneath the short summary. Comments on Facebook’s blog post are almost entirely negative.
June 2011: Facebook tests a “Happening Now” feature on some users, showing the latest status updates in a separate feed on the right side of the screen. Early guinea pigs hated it. Some of them formed a “Facebooks ‘Happening Now’ Haters Group” to commiserate.
The Happening Now feature was a precursor to the News Ticker, which Facebook rolled out to all users this week.
I wonder what would happen if Facebook suddenly changed its design back to the way it was in 2004.