With Facebook’s recent slew of changes (again), I’ve come across a few articles that question if Facebook really cares about “you-the-user”. Whether in jest or in all seriousness, the topic of the Facebook user not being a customer but rather a product has come up the last day or two (see: Douglas Rushkoff’s CNN article “Does Facebook really care about you?” and this post’s image courtesy of a Facebook share by my friend Julius). The caption of the photo states the idea succinctly:
If you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer. You’re the product being sold.
But here’s the thing, the Facebook user does matter. No users = no social network = no money.
Sure, the Facebook user isn’t shelling out money to buy or use a product, but they are choosing to spend time, share information, and interact with others to create the social foundation that is the potential gold mines that businesses are willing to invest time and money.
From my own user experience on the new Facebook home page layout, I am
- completely ignoring my sidebars – you know, the places where Facebook places ads;
- engaging less on my friends’ pages (even if it’s nice that they’ve made wishing “Happy Birthday” so convenient)
- (related to the first point) confused with what is real-time and past-time with what is being share
I really don’t even know where to begin to look, so I just focus on the news feed until I get confused and just post a status update and call it a day.
There are a few things I do like (that kind of copy G+)
- lists to categorize (to a degree) specific people
- seeing friends’ interactions on a product page
- seeing who else has shared the same link on a product page
- the public feed option to any user with subscription options to that public feed.
At the end of the day, however, I don’t think “the user as the product” or the “businesses as a client” win. I wonder – did they even try user testing of any kind? Eye tracking? I have to log in and see all this information before I can get to a game or a product page – but I’m not seeing anything the way I’m going about things.
It’s all fine and good that we don’t have to pay for the barn or the food, but if the barn is becoming cramped or falling apart and if the food stinks, then we’re not like the pigs pictured. We can go somewhere else. I’m seeing a lot more Google+ activity in the last two days – maybe because the G+ barn has opened up its shiny doors to a new herd, but perhaps it’s also because the new herd got tired of the Facebook barn being retrofitted (or maybe completely undone).