There is a media frenzy brewing over user backlash against the new Facebook design. Over the next few days and weeks I expect we’ll see lots of virtual ink spilled to breathlessly describe how this is a crisis for Facebook. After all, this is a HUGE rebellion of millions of users.
Or is it?
There are certainly lots of people making noise that they really, truly dislike the new design. Even Nick O’Neill, an ardent Facebook blogger (allfacebook.com) and supporter, is reporting on the issue in this post. Michael Arrington, influential blogger on TechCrunch, reports in his recent post that 94% of the people taking a poll on the redesign don’t like it.
However, even the single digit millions of people who are expressing their opinion constitute less than 3% of the Facebook user population (and I’m being generous in my calculation). That implies 97% of the user population either doesn’t care enough about the issue to express their opinion, or more likely, is neutral or perhaps even supportive of the change. People tend to complain loudly when they dislike something but are much less vocal when they approve.
On the whole, most people in the world in varying degrees hate change. It is a natural consequence that change, which makes us have to look at things we thought we knew with new eyes, disrupts our busy lives and costs us time. The new Facebook design is making people change the way they work with a tool that they know and LOVE. That is uncomfortable.
I like the new design because I can see how it does good things for me personally and for my business and my customers. Fortunately, we are starting to hear a few people talk about why they like the new design so I know I’m not alone.
Regardles of whether people like the changes happening now, the issue goes far beyond the simple concept of what Facebook looks like. It deeply impacts how Facebook will make money and thrive as a business. Facebook needs to make some money at some point or everything they’ve built will come tumbling down. Simple ad-supported models are struggling right now and Facebook’s is not dramatically out-performing others. The changes Facebook is implementing to support much richer conversations between people and business in the social graph will provide significant revenue opportunities.
Robert Scoble (prolific and respected blogger) posted an article today responding to the buzz in the industry that Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook’s CEO) has told his staff not to listen to their customers. Common wisdom says the “customer is always right” but, in this case, I agree with him that Facebook needs to stay the course and implement their vision. This will surely test Zuckerberg’s mettle and his diplomatic skills as he has to navigate through what might be some pretty choppy water.
It is somewhat ironic that the platform that Mark has created is giving his detractors an amazingly powerful pulpit to attack him from. I hope people will start to look beyond their petty grievances to see how these changes might be positive for them in the long term. I think he is on the right course and I hope he succeeds because his vision is making great things possible for our business and our customers.