Facebook's "Problem"

Sun, Oct 16, 2011

My mom had a birthday gathering the other day (happy 52 mom). It was pretty uneventful as you would expect, but as sometimes happens these days, a conversation about Facebook got started.

Most techies you meet would say that they hate listening to normal people talk about anything technical - especially the older generation. I usually find these kinds of conversations rather enjoyable, especially if I can withdraw and not have to be a part of it and just listen. Because then you kind of get a sense for how normal people see things and what problems they run to, etc.

They were discussing Facebook email notifications. They really didn't like getting all of those into their emails and none of them had any idea that you could configure that. I wonder how many millions of Facebook users out there are getting upwards of 100 emails a month which they have no interest in - furthermore I wonder how much money it costs Facebook to send those out.

To them, the fact that Facebook sends out emails is an annoying feature and they wish Facebook didn't do that. It hurts the user experience for them - and they were oblivious to the fact that you can actually turn them off.

It's also a fact that those emails are one of the driving factors of Facebook's growth (at least initially), so even if you know that they hurt the experience for some users, it still does make sense for them to make that a default from a business perspective.

Another thing that cropped up in the said conversation, is that people have a really hard time understanding what is happening when they get messages or posts in their news-feed about somebody they know commenting on a status of a person they do not know at all. To be honest, I've also been wondering about the usefulness of that, but that's another story.

At least I can understand from an engineering perspective how that feature works and why Facebook would do that, but to them it feels like a really strange thing.

Facebook's "problem"

Facbeook has a unique problem. Because of its incredible success and therefore penetration among "normies", they have to make everything very simple for users, and yet allow for a level of customization for a subset of users. And in the mean time they're trying to move really fast in terms of new features and staying ahead of the competition.

I am a big Facebook fan. Not that I use or like the service that much, but more from an engineering perspective. They've held an incredible uptime though facing incredible growth.

I think that's it. Any other thoughts?