“The bottom line is there are currently two crucial issues that need to be satisfied in my opinion – it needs to double down on improving the personal experience and second, minimize the impact of algorithms so that it doesn’t feel like an advertising hub. If they manage to even remotely cure these shortcomings, I might give it another shot. Until then, no thank you.”
Earlier last year, when I wrote about how Facebook’s eccentric hunger for more users has marred its place in my digital life, I concluded the article with the excerpt above. It’s been more than eight months since then and Facebook seems to have finally discerned that it’s heading the wrong direction. A direction which has pivoted its platform away from what it originally set out to do.
In the past month, Facebook has made a series of bold promises for restoring the social network’s tarnished image. As a new year resolution, the company’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg vowed to overhaul the biggest social network’s current strategy and said: “We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being.”
However, their first significant move towards this realization was announced last month. Back in December, Facebook said that it’s revamping a bunch of algorithms to demote posts which essentially beg for likes, comments, and shares. I’m sure everyone one of us is familiar with such entries. “Engagement bait” posts account for a hefty portion of anyone Facebook’s feed. The primary reason why these sort of formats prevailed is probably that Facebook’s current logic is to prioritize posts with which users have interacted more.
Two weeks after that announcement, Facebook promised to mend another critical letdown of its social platform — the news feed. The company plans to put emphasis on more “meaningful” interactions which essentially means you’ll encounter much less promotional and media content in your feed even if it means the time people spend on the social network goes down. “We will predict which posts you might want to interact with your friends about, and show these posts higher in feed,” added Adam Mosseri, the head of News Feed at Facebook.
Lastly, just a few days ago, the head of the Facebook Messenger team admitted that their aggressive approach to reaching the top has turned the app into a mess. “Over the last two years, we built a lot of capabilities to find the features that continue to set us apart. A lot of them have found their product market fit; some haven’t. While we raced to build these new features, the app became too cluttered.”, wrote David Marcus in a blog post.
Marcus said that the company is investing in refreshing the Facebook Messenger for bringing a more streamlined and simplified experience this year. While that does sound exciting and the right thing to do, considering the state of the app, it will be quite a challenge. Facebook has added a myriad of features to Messenger in the year, so much that they had to launch a “Lite” version for underpowered phones. Some of the major features include a gaming platform, ephemeral stories, payments, in-line advertisements and more.
That’s a whole lot of changes Facebook claims to work on this year. Each of them has, in a way, plagued the social network’s experience. Whether the company will be able to come closer to fulfilling their promises, we can only wait now. But if it does, Facebook will have an opportunity to substantially rebalance its position in the industry.
However, what concerns me is that Facebook has made such bold commitments almost every year and we all know how those went. The issue is that Facebook is way too big now to be affected by minor algorithm alterations. It sustains more than two billion monthly active users as of third quarter of 2017. Unless Facebook manages to dramatically revamp how the feed works, chances are this year will be no different than the previous ones.