The Elephant in the Internet: Facebook is Getting Kinda Bad at Facebook

SocialFixer had a reasonable plea today: could Facebook please just go back to displaying everyone’s updates in the order they were posted?

Most of you have probably noticed by now that your Facebook news feed, by default, presents the “Top Stories” — posts and pages that Facebook thinks are most relevant to you. Of course, you can pay Facebook to “promote” your own posts, giving them a higher priority in that algorithm, so what you’re actually getting is a mixture of things that lots of people have commented on and things that people have paid money to put there.

You can switch the “Top Stories” method to “Most Recent” manually, which doesn’t get rid of the promoted posts but does keep them from completely drowning out other things; Facebook, however, will randomly switch you back to “Top Stories” from time to time. No one’s been able to figure out what triggers the reset, as far as I can tell. You just have to sort of keep an eye on it whenever you log in.

Matt Kruse’s post at SocialFixer hits the problem spot-on:

Seriously, Facebook, please listen to your users. Give us the option to see an unfiltered, chronological news feed, and allow us to make it our default – on the web and on mobile. You can put ads in our feed, on our sidebar, and still allow promoted posts to those who stick with the default filtered view. Fine. But don’t take away our content, or you become less and less useful to us.

  • When I tell my Tivo to record episodes of Modern Family, it doesn’t pick out the ones it thinks I will like best and only record them, does it?
  • When I subscribe to a magazine, the publisher doesn’t deliver only the issues that it thinks I will be most interested, does it?
  • The Post Office doesn’t filter my mail, in order to protect me from drowning in all the catalogs, magazines, and junk mail that I’ve requested, does it? No. It delivers everything I’ve asked for.

Why, Facebook, can’t you just be like everyone else and let me see what I’ve said I want to see?! Why must you think you know what I want better than I do? Why?

At stake here is what made Facebook popular in the first place. It aggregated all your friends’ and family’s random-ass thoughts and let you browse them at your leisure. This was something novel, entertaining, and accessible, and it catapulted Mark Zuckerberg into the top thirty richest people alive.

But now, as I’ve pointed out here on the blog before, Facebook is more and more in the hands of people who aren’t thinking creatively about user experience. They’re thinking about ad revenue.

Problem is, Facebook isn’t popular because it’s a great place to advertise a business. It’s a great place to advertise a business because it’s popular.

And the further it gets from that original model of “everything all of your friends have posted, in the order they posted it,” the less popular it’s going to become. As Matt Kruse said, “you become less and less useful to us.” And eventually, something better will come along.

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  1. So true. I had been using facebook to advertise the small business I work for, but now it’s getting to the point where you can only advertise your page because it won’t show up organically even if people have chosen to follow your page because you post great content, which makes facebook a more interesting site. I’m getting so frustrated with the ad-based approach for individuals and businesses! No fun anymore.

    • Yeah, they just rolled out the “Pages Feed” to solve that problem, apparently without considering that it only became a problem in the first place when they changed how the existing feed worked. Talk about creating problems for yourself.

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