There has been an overwhelmingly negative public response to Facebook’s launch of two new products yesterday. The products, called News Feed and Mini Feed, allow users to get a quick view of what their friends are up to, including relationship changes, groups joined, pictures uploaded, etc., in a streaming news format.
Many tens of thousands of Facebook users are not happy with the changes. Frank Gruber notes that a Facebook group has been formed called “Students Against Facebook News Feed”. A commenter in our previous post said the group was closing in on 100,000 members as of 9:33 PM PST, less than a day after the new features were launched. There are rumors of hundreds of other Facebook groups calling for a removal of the new features.
A site calling to boycott Facebook on September 12 has also been put up, as well as a petition to have the features removed. Other sites are popping up as well. There seems to be no counterbalancing group or groups in favor of the changes.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has responded personally, saying “Calm down. Breathe. We hear you.” and “We didn’t take away any privacy options.”
I gave the new features a thumbs up yesterday and stick by my review. No new information is being made available about users. Facebook privacy settings remain in their previous state, meaning you can have your information available throughout the network or just among your closest friends. Don’t want a particular piece of information to be syndicated out even to them? Remove any single piece of data by simply clicking the “x” button next to it and it will not appear in the news feed.
If this feature had been part Facebook since the beginning, their users would be screaming if Facebook tried to remove it. It’s a powerful way to quickly get lots of information about people you care about, with easy settings to remove that information for privacy reasons. No one can see anything that they couldn’t see yesterday. It’s just being distributed more efficiently.
I also applaud Facebook for launching a product clearly designed to reduce total page views in the network by no longer forcing users to go to their friends pages for updates. That shows serious long term vision and dedication to the principle of facilitating communication among its users.
An easy fix to the problem is for Facebook to simply make each of the new products optional. Users who don’t participate will quickly find that they are falling out of the attention stream, and I suspect will quickly add themselves back in.