Why the Facebook Feature Frenzy Will Fail

Last week Mark Zuckerberg revealed video chat (see above video), the first of many new features in what will be called, “Launching Season 2011.” Yet, this announcement (conveniently timed one week after Google+ launched) only seems to add to the problems that Facebook has.

First and foremost, Facebook’s nightmare user interface offers a plethora of features, many of which don’t fit on one screen view much less a mobile application. More clutter won’t make the mess better. While an interesting business strategy — much like McDonalds’ approach to adding competitive products to its menu — sooner or later so many features are just too much. On the contrary, additions are bound to make Facebook’s menu of social offerings even harder to navigate.

Facebook needs to address its user interface, wonky personal list issues, and privacy concerns as Google+ did with its next generation offering. Google+ is not perfect by a long mile, but it did up the ante.

Google plus android
Image by Geeky Gadgets

Consider the whole mobile experience. Everyone knows the mobile revolution is upon us. Just today Pew released a study showing 25% of Americans prefer accessing the Internet on their smartphones.

If the Facebook web interface is bad, the mobile interface is from hell. Google+ was clearly designed with mobile use in mind. The Android app is fantastic, and exposes a lot of weaknesses in the half functional Facebook app. The inability to provide a great experience in a touch environment is a major competitive issue for Facebook. Not only does it have Google+ to contend with, but Twitter will soon be integrated into all iPhones. Mobile will be a two front war for Facebook.

Like other networks Google+ has privacy issues with content licensing, too. But at least it is built on an opt-in premises with circles of friends rather a big jambalaya of friends, colleagues, and family. It respects the way we work as people and our sense of privacy. This is the exact opposite of Facebook’s approach, which is empire building at the expense of its users.

You can easily make the argument that Google+ is in the beginning, and doesn’t warrant a response, even if it has five million users already. Facebook has 750 million users. But Inside Facebook recently reported that Facebook’s growth has stabilized in early adopter countries, and is even retracting in some months.

Time has shown over and over again that big web companies lose their stature. The “Death” of Facebook is not so unfathomable this month. To stave off that loss of stature, Facebook needs to address its UI and privacy issues rather than create more of the same problem.

What do you think of Facebook’s response (or does it need to respond)?

  • Well, I’m definitely becoming the Google+ Curmudgeon… I’m not saying that there isn’t valid points here at all… there are. Plenty of them, in fact. I just think that everyone is giving Google+ WAY too much credit. It is a nice first pass, but they havent really thrown any junk at it yet. Let’s see what it looks like once you start throwing in the games. Once they open up an API. Once businesses arrive. It’s a very simple site right now. No integration into Apps, not even their own Reader property for sharing. 

    We like it now, because it takes us back to a time where things were quieter and it was just us geeks. But there are two really big questions that are yet to be answered 1) What’s it going to look like once they really start expanding their offering and 2) Is the average, non-social media obsessed human going to give a damn.

    • Anonymous

      :) Google+ outpaced Twitter and Facebook for referral traffic on this blog today.  I don’t care about the rest. I go where my people go.

      • True, I am prone to care more about where the everyman (or woman really) goes, rather than the every-techie. It’ll be interesting to see if that holds or if it is just shiny and new syndrome!

        • Anonymous

          Yup, and if my people go back to Facebook/Twitter or go elsewhere,I’ll go with them. Somehow, I think we are seeing a fragmentation though. The people bitching the most about + are bloggers with established followings elsewhere.Hmm, I wonder why? ;)

          • Or those like me that have no following anywhere and just like to bitch :)

  • Anonymous

    Although the jury’s still out on Google+, I am glad to final see Facebook get some credible competition. At the minimum G+ will inspire Facebook to get better. At best Google+ is the next wave of this extraordinary new medium.

    • Anonymous

      Agreed.  The worst that happens is Facebook is maybe just a smidge less cocky.

  • Are you adding a G+ button? :)

    • Anonymous

      I want to give it a couple of months to see if the phenomena has staying power ;)

  • There’s a flip side to this argument, Geoff. I read a post — I can’t find it again (shoulda bookmarked it) but I believe it was by an investment analyst — who liked the fact that Facebook was now improving the service for its existing customers rather than continuing the frenzy of new-customer acquisition. Responding to what Facebook users want and can use is not a bad strategy, and it doesn’t have to take the form of clutter. The Skype integration, for instance, is just a “call’ button added to the profile page. Click once, you’re connected. My mom can figure that out and use it far more easily than she can figure out Skype or Hangouts. Whether all new features are so elegantly implemented remains to be seen.

    As for clutter, what is Sparks doing in Google+? I can easily see Google adding more and more of its existing tools to Plus. And don’t think for a minute that advertising isn’t on the horizon. Joining Circles is signaling to Google exactly what your interests are, so targeting will be even more refined.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, Shel I like a service that better serves me instead of adding more services that I can’t find, don’t want, and all the while disrespecting my privacy with a new changed privacy policy to “accommodate” its latest cluttered feature that also bombs my email box every two months. Improved service. I like that.  Thank you for your differing view.

  • thanks a lot for the post!

  • Aside from UI design and new feature bloat, even the features that FB has implemented months or years ago often just don’t work for me. I hope G+ will be far less glitchy.

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  • I think Facebook’s problem is arrogance. If you notice most of Beacon is back in one form or another. They don’t give a shit about anyone but themselves and felt without competition the reason for their success was we love Facebook…vs We don’t have an alternative. I see them dead and possibly they will wane before going public enough to have the idiot investors lose their shirts.

  • Chriskarwaczynski

    It will collapse just like Yahoo 360° , which was excellent and did not have half million 12 year old kids with japanese faces and publishing sick pictures and promoting death , hurt and envy.