A faster horse
It’s insane to think about how ubiquitous Facebook has become. There are more than 800 million active users right now. That’s more than two and a half times the United States’ population. I imagine that there are some grandparents whose entire knowledge of the internet consists of email and Facebook. That is what the internet is to them. There are kids right now who don’t know a life without it—social networking is as much part of them as television or movies or music is to my generation.
With numbers like that, when Facebook rolls out any kind of change to its site, there are bound to be people who get their collective panties in a bunch. I’ve already seen the little beginnings of revolt, but once Timeline rolls out to everybody, I am bracing for the worst. There will be hundreds of groups that start up saying that if 50,000 people join, Facebook will wise up and revert to an older iteration. My newsfeed will be clogged with people whining about the ‘new Facebook’ and how the ‘old Facebook’ was better. Hell, everybody bitched about the newsfeed when it came out, saying that it was the stalker feed and that it was creepy. If it’s not broke, why fix it?
Henry Ford, who is essentially the inventor of the mass produced automobile, famously said that if he had asked what the people wanted, they would have said a faster horse. People are dumb. A person is smart.
Mark Zuckerberg has a vision for his company, and 50,000 People Against The New Facebook is not going to change his mind. He wants to create a platform that people will enjoy using. If you’re given something for free, you’re not the customer, you’re the product. A platform can give birth to all sorts of new things: applications, games, anything a developer can dream of. If people enjoy using these things, they will continue using the site, which in turn allows Zuckerberg to sell all your coveted personal information to advertisers.
With every little tweak and change, Facebook is making the site more engaging and engrossing to its end users. It wants young and old to think of it as ‘the internet’. Want the news? Head to Facebook. Want to play Angry Birds? Head to Facebook. With Timeline, it has essentially created an interactive journal of your entire life. When I got my hands on the developer preview last fall, I was mesmerized. Going back to 2003 and seeing who I was crushin’ on, who I was just getting to know—it was crazy sauce. It was nostalgic. Any time you can get that kind of emotional response from a user, you’ve done a good job. I realized that Facebook essentially had defined my life with an algorithm. I had knowingly and willingly given Facebook all kinds of intimate personal information. And I’m not even that active of a user. I don’t really update my status, I hardly add friends. I namely just sit back and watch. But as I scrolled through my life, year by year, I realized something. I liked it.
While I don’t really care for Facebook as a platform—I have never felt the need to play Farmville or link everything I do to it, I love the Timeline update, privacy issues notwithstanding. It’s not a website, it’s you.
But for now, nobody will realize that and everyone will whine because change is bad, and then they will get over it because they always do.