Why Facebook has never listened and why it definitely won’t start now

My former boss, Jim Fawcette, used to say that if you asked a group of Porsche owners what they wanted they’d tell you things like “smoother ride, more trunk space, more leg room, etc.” He’d then say “well, they just designed a Volvo.”

His words were meant to get us out of letting the customers run our business mode we often found ourselves falling into.

Today, over on Techmeme, I see that the latest uproar is over Facebook’s new design and how Mark Zuckerberg is telling people that he won’t listen to customers. Or something like that.

Before we get deeper into this, remember that Facebook has always pissed off its users. First, you’ve gotta realize that in Facebook’s life it will go through at least seven phases. We are moving from phase four to phase five right now. In each phase change people have gotten pissed off.

Here’s the phases of Facebook:

Phase 1. Harvard only.
Phase 2. Harvard+Colleges only.
Phase 3. Harvard+Colleges+Geeks only.
Phase 4. All those above+All People (in the social graph).
Phase 5. All those above+People and businesses in the social graph.
Phase 6. All those above+People, businesses, and well-known objects in the social graph.
Phase 7. All people, businesses, objects in the social graph.

Phase 5 is known as when Facebook is really going to find its business model. This is why Mark Zuckerberg is absolutely correct to say he can’t listen to people who wants Facebook to get stuck in Phase Four. It was a nice phase, yes, when Facebook only had people in the social graph, but those days are over.

Don’t get distracted by the current design that looks sort of like Twitter. Twitter showed that businesses can co-exist on the social graph along with people. Zuckerberg is smart. He saw that Twitter was going to make a crapload of money (that’s why he tried to buy Twitter) and instead of being depressed by being turned down by @ev he decided to phase shift Facebook.

Zuckerberg is a real leader because he doesn’t care what anyone thinks. He’s going to do what he thinks is best for his business. I wish Silicon Valley had more like him.

Anyway, all those who are saying the new design sucks should NOT be listened to. Yeah, I know a lot of people are going to get mad at me for saying that. After all, how can a blogger say to not listen to the masses? Easy: I’ve seen the advice the masses are giving and most of it isn’t very good for Facebook’s business interests.

When Zuckerberg announced these changes a couple of weeks ago I told him he was brilliant and that his moves this month would be remembered for decades. Decades.

Here’s why:

Let’s say you’re walking down University Ave. in Palo Alto, California in a couple of years (or, really, any street in the world) and you’re hungry.

You pull out your iPhone or Palm Pre or Android or Blackberry or Windows Mobile doohickey and click open the Facebook application. Then you type “sushi near me.”

It answers back “within walking distance are two sushi restaurants that more than 20 of your friends have liked.”

Wait a second. “Friends have liked?”

Sounds like friendfeed. But, because Facebook has the users (it is growing the size of Twitter every 15 days or so because Facebook has about 180 million users while Twitter only has about 10 million. Facebook, at this point, is growing 200,000 to 700,000 users per day. Twitter is growing by far fewer users per day (although its percentage growth is faster).

But don’t worry about the friendfeed copying. Zuckerberg is so close to a gold mine that his metal detectors must be going crazy. All he has to do is figure out how to keep those pesky users from leaving the service.

Oh, wait, they aren’t leaving! How do I know that?

Because my wife Maryam is totally addicted to Facebook. She hasn’t left. She hasn’t slowed down. She just told me she didn’t like the new design and made some noises that she was only going to use the iPhone version (not true in my observations). So, if Zuckerberg didn’t lose Maryam and her friends, he’s safe. He SHOULD NOT LISTEN to those who are saying the new design sucks. It will keep him from getting to the promised land where we mix businesses and people.

Here’s what really is hanging out there for Facebook if Zuckerberg doesn’t listen: billions. Maybe even trillions.

Look at what we just announced to the world:

Maryam has an announcement!

Yes, we’re having another baby. But look at what did NOT happen on Twitter: not a single diaper company contacted us yet. Not a single maternity clothing company. Not a single car company (yes, we’re going to buy a new one soon). Not a single camera company (already bought a new one for this occassion). Not a single insurance company (I need more). Not a single bank (I need to start saving for another college student). Not a single stroller company (need a new one that can hold two). Not a single vitamin company (Maryam is going through her prenatal vitamins at a good clip). Not a single shoe company (Maryam needs new shoes for pregnancy, and Milan is growing fast too).

That will NOT last.

Imagine we’re on Facebook in a year. Now all of a sudden I can search for all these things and see which items and companies have gotten the most “likes.” Now do you get why Facebook is copying friendfeed?

Zuckerberg is not listening to you because you don’t get how Facebook is going to make billions.

Zuckerberg is right. He shouldn’t start listening to his users now.

680 thoughts on “Why Facebook has never listened and why it definitely won’t start now

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  2. I added my relatives on my profile when I came on facebook, now often I'm asked to add my relatives-what's up with this? I don't need to send a request to a relative I already have, stop having us to do this it's getting on my nurves. Every week, I'm getting a request to confirm my relatives, you can't answer anything without having to send a relative request-I don't need this.

  3. I'm all about CEOs with a vision who will pursue the vision even though it annoys some customers.

    Facebook, however, is ultimately as replicable as MySpace. Remember it? If there's billions to be made by cramming ads in our face, then someone less interested in owning islands will inevitably create a more intimate, less ad-driven alternative, and people will leave Facebook. The same way they left MySpace.

    Once someone starts taking market share away from Facebook, Facebook's only response will be to increase the intensity of advertising to maintain revenue.

  4. “The Dark Side of Facebook AKA “Disgracebook,” or “Facebooks Complete Lack of Customer Service”

    Regrettably, I must agree with the author of this article. Facebook does not listen to its members or its unjustly disabled former members! As a matter of fact, Mark Zukerberg does not care in the least about what his members feel or think. Maybe Mark and his staff are members of the Bohemian Grove and have “cremated care.” If you want to learn how to hate join Facebook then try to have dialog with them if you accidentally breach one of their polices. If anyone thinks Facebook is “listening” to it members they simply DO NOT know what they are talking about! Facebook ruthlessly, relentlessly, and remorselessly walks all over its members with hob nailed boot polices of culling members from membership for unspecified unknown reasons and then accuses the permanently disabled members as “possibly” being guilty of spamming or “possibly” being guilty of harassing other members because of asking to many members to be friends at an unspecified rate. Facebook goes on to permanently disable accounts that have to many friends, belongs to many groups, pokes to many unknown times, sends to many email messages and on and on and on. Mark Zuckerber says that Facebook members seem to take a “personal ownership” of their Facebook accounts. Well golly gee Mark, Facebook is a SOCIAL Internet program that people join to meet and make new friends. Making new friends, at least to me, is personal and publishing real photographs and genuine personal information on Facebook seems personal to me. Maybe you should say in your rules and regulations that we want members to be real and genuine but do not join Facebook for personal reasons and do not expect to be treated in a true genuine caring manner because Facebook does not care in the least about what you think or how you feel. When Facebook says you are guilty of breaking polices you will be treated with complete lack of respect in a impersonal sterile manner and banned from Facbook without recourse.

    The unaired dark side of Facebook, or should I call it “Disgracebook” because of the extremely poor disgraceful way Facebook treats its members. The reason I say the unaired dark side of Facebook is I have yet to see anything announced on the prime time major news outlets about the disgraceful practices Facebook uses on its members. The Internet is bursting at its seems with unhappy disabled Facebook members who have posted thousands of complaints everywhere it is possible to post complaints about Facebooks complete lack of customer service and mean spirited disregard for concerns, questions and feedback from members and former members.

    On Mark Zuckerber's, the founder of Facebook, Facebook Fan Page Mark states “I'm trying to make the world a more open place by helping people connect and share.” I am glad Mark says he is “trying etc.” because, in my opinion, he certainly has NOT accomplished his mission. Facebook is one of the most closed undemocratic uncaring unsocial business operations since the formation of the Gestapo. Facebook operates carte blanche without regard of a due process of rights for members Facebook deems unworthy to be members of its social network service and therefore, disables their account. Facebook justifies its policy and actions under the euphemism of “protecting members” from “repeated actions that could be construed as spam,” and from anything Facebook makes up as a threat to its security. Facebook is an omnipotent uncaring broadly defined automated bureaucratic security service mechanism with unpublished specific rules that are violated without knowing it. If this is not Gestapo like policy, I guess I do not know what it is because it certainly is un-American to say the least!

    Furthermore, in my opinion Facebook is not a social network service. When joining Facebook you are, in reality, joining a money making “computer program” complete with automated responders but is set up to look like a social network service operated by real people. Is it any wonder Facebook members are treated with total disregard for being feeling thinking real people? I have yet to know of a computer program that is able to feel and or to reason. When someone calls Facebook you are treated rudely and crassly informed to use their computerized automated services which do not reply when used or quickly transferred to an automated answering service to which there is no reply.

    I strongly urge anyone interested to please research what I am informing you of because I assure you the situation I have explained is the truth and nothing but the truth so help me God. Until the media and or business community and elected officials takes notice of and makes public “Disgracebooks” inhuman treatment of people Mark Zuckerberg and his staff and money making computer program will continue to fill up trenches behind Disgracebooks California headquarters with unworthy disabled members.

    One final comment. If Disgracebook is treating its foreign members as poorly as it treats its domestic members Disgracebook is not only giving itself a black eye it is giving the United States of America a black eye. Is there anyone out there who cares enough to tell the world about Facebooks dark side and will hopefully help Facebook to become a user friendly Internet social service it claims to be?

  5. After having my account disabled by Facebook over a month ago and receiving nothing more as an explanation than a general copy of the Facebook TOS sent by someone named 'Jada' in User Operations citing no specific violation and reason for my account being disabled. Daily inquires to the plethora of @Facebook.com email aliases published online have resulted in no response from anyone at Facebook.

    I'm just a normal person, with roughly 30 friends who uses Facebook to share vacation photos and stay in touch with friends and family. Hardly sounds like malicious activity and grounds for having my account disabled, does it?

    'Jada' has asked me to choose a new security question–twice. Yet my account goes on disabled. This reeks of a phishing scam despite the communications coming from @Facebook.com. Inquiries to other Facebook aliases have gone unanswered.

    A quick Google search quickly reveals that I am but one of many thousands of people who have had their Facebook account disabled without warning, explanation or remedy. Add to that Facebook's unresponsiveness to my inquires to effect a resolution and they have become a poster child for egregious business practices. It's a typical technology David and Goliath tale where the market leader holds customers hostage with no ability to bring about a successful resolution to the errors produced by Facebook's erroneous algorithms that determine which accounts are flagged for disablement.

    Let Zuckerberg and Facebook continue to turn a blind ear to it's customers. Hopefully, disgruntled Facebook customers will rally together and jump ship to friendfinder or some other social networking application that actually encourages social networking versus disabling user accounts without explanation or remedy. Hopefully they will take their eyeballs to another social media site before Zuckerberg has an opportunity to monetize their eyeballs to generate billions.

    I am heading over to friendfinder. On my way there, I'm going to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau in San Jose, CA, and with the CA Attorney General as well as join the campaign against Facebook in a rally of support for friendfinder.

    Come on, friends. Let's let Facebook know we've had enough of their egregious, monopolistic and unresponsive business practices and head over to friendfinder. Let's leave Zuckerberg and crew sitting in Palo Alto with a room full of servers and no subscribers. It's probably only a matter of time before they wrongly disable all user accounts as their security algorithms run a muck and no one responds to user email to bring about a resolution. I'm all for security, but c'mon, Facebook. How much of a security threat is a middle-aged woman with a handful a friends and a series of vacation pictures who logs onto Facebook at most 3 times a week to check in with friends and family?! You don't need an algorithm or security team to tell you that the probability of me posing a threat to Facebook or its users is nil.

    There are many business cases of Goliath companies who became complacent even offensive to customers which created a gap to be filled by a company who gets it. UPS created a gap for FedEx to enter and grab a huge share of market. Microsoft created a gap with its resource-intensive, buggy, blue-screen-laden software graciously de-bugged by its customers. Enter Apple's super successful 'Switch' campaign portraying Apple as a place where….everything 'just works.' Those are two that immediately come to mind. Perhaps friendfinder is just the underdog to step in and fill the gap created by Facebook's erroneous account disablement and unresponsiveness to bring about a remedy.

    I'm off to friendfinder…See everyone there!!

  6. I can easily see the marketing potential, except the majority of ads I currently see on facebook are for felonious weight loss, wrinkle remover, or cellulite disguising products. In short, by posting these lame “scam” type ads may detract from real advertisements that will pervade the site eventually. Perhaps younger facebookers will eventually peruse (or even purchase) from the sponsors, but most adult facebook users have a patterned buying habit instilled. I have some wonderful ideas to grab the buyer's and seller's market on facebook, but haven't any idea where or who i would propose these to. Any idea?

  7. I think some of what people are missing in their cries about the demise of Facebook is the potential of the Facebook Platform. Sure, the company is working on a number of fronts with updates to statuses (competing with Twitter), updates to Photos (competing with Flickr), and with other core applications like Groups and Events (maybe Meetup is the competitor here), but that's the beauty of the Facebook Platform. They fully admit that they can't be the leader in everything so they let developers help them.

    Facebook isn't trying to be the leader in online gaming, they let people build apps that take advantage of the Facebook network to add a social layer to their games. They don't want to be a quiz engine so they let developers build “What City Am I?” applications (which I personally find annoying but just hide in my stream). The real innovation that I think will give Facebook staying power is the Platform. They've ceded the reins to a thriving developer community to help keep themselves relevant and evolving.

    And sure, lots of these Applications are useless, or even incredibly annoying, but there will be a few innovative ones that help keep Facebook relevant and increase the value of my Facebook account.

  8. It looks to me like FB will be moving toward the Twitter model as fast as they can…..too much money on the table.

  9. It looks to me like FB will be moving toward the Twitter model as fast as they can…..too much money on the table.

  10. People are free to share thoughts and opinions about many things. Different social networking sites are available and Facebook is one of them. If other found it not interesting at all, maybe they have reasons why and it needs a great change on features or other terms. Well, the topic is that interesting..

  11. People are free to share thoughts and opinions about many things. Different social networking sites are available and Facebook is one of them. If other found it not interesting at all, maybe they have reasons why and it needs a great change on features or other terms. Well, the topic is that interesting..

  12. Oh, Facebook. Dost thou need more popularity? I would say the motive behind this new design is profit maximization. Although Facebook already exceeds all other social networking sites and other Internet bosses like Google, Zuckerberg figures he could use some more Web traffic. A smart business man at least, his new design is another channel for bringing in the bucks. And what is a man to do? It seems the entire globe (except me…) has a Facebook account. My cousins overseas are the ones urging me to create a page, proving to me the worldwide spread of the site. Good decision, I’d say, to keep the site fresh so as not to bore addicted users, who probably constitute the majority of the demographic, and for the newbies and potential page-creaters likewise.

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