More changes to come on Facebook. This time, some actually seem to make sense.
However, there is one particular change which seems likely to upset users, advertisers and hence Facebook’s potential revenue.
Last week, almost below my radar, a small notification appeared which casually stated, amongst other text, that notifications would be vanishing in the New Year and that if you want to keep informed of application updates, you would need to ensure that the application had your email address.
My instant reaction was – that’s me out of visiting Facebook regularly then. Like many people, email is no longer the communication tool of choice. It has its place, but so do tweets, SMS, phone calls, IM, Skype and so on.
The email inboxes of far too many people are overladen with a surfeit of incoming messages, many for newsletters subscribed to moons ago that you always mean to read but never quite do, offers that you are sure you never wanted to receive, spam, forward chain letters from ‘friends’, and a host of other tosh.
These can often hide the important messages so people resort to other solutions to ensuring they don’t miss an important communication. If you need to talk to another business person, LinkedIn is a great way to ensure attention. If you need an answer instantly, you seek your respondent’s online status in Google Chat, jabber, Skype, IM – knowing before you hit send that they are present at the other end and will respond quickly.
SMS isn’t strictly reliable but in most cases will get a reasonably instant answer – if the message is delivered promptly, if the phone is on, if the recipient is checking their texts etc.
One wonders the logic behind Facebook’s decision. For many people, the notifications are the means to getting engaged in FB, telling them who has said what, posted a photo, commented in a discussion group and so on. It is also a means by which applications drive users to their page or app, relying on people power to encourage viral marketing.
This issue will no doubt cause untold discussion and heated debates shortly and on implementation. It isn’t that users hate change (of course they do!) but it takes away one of the primary mechanisms for users to know what others have been doing. It puts all the footslog and hard work back onto the users, instead of making it easy for them to engage and socialise.
It is a valuable lesson for any company to consider. When you plan changes to your website, are they for you or for the users’ benefit? Or both? Can you meet the target of satisfying your desire to make your life easier without making your users’ lives harder?