Mr. Zuckerburg, tear down this Wall

Recently, I have seen some cracks in the Facebook wall. And I am not talking about the company’s weak stock price.

In the past six months, I have talked to over 200 college students around the country and almost all of them expressed their frustration with the online service.

Their concerns center on the following areas:

  • Too much clutter on the service and it’s increasingly difficult to easily accomplish simple tasks
  • Too many parents on the service
  • They can’t start a new life (so to speak) when they get to college because they already have an extensive and well-documented history on Facebook (how many of us learned more about ourselves at school and evolved into a slightly different being)
  • The inability to be annonymous and thus I have to be extra careful about my postings otherwise, I might jeopardize my career; something that seems innocent to me, such as a picture of student drinking beers with his friends, might be misinterpreted by a perpective employer
  • The terrible mobile experience — where Facebook is getting over 50% of its users
  • The constant change in the company’s algorithums, such as when determining the content that appears in a person’s New Feeds
  • The adjustment in what’s called the EdgeRank algorithm has reduced the organic (unpaid) exposure received by Facebook posts from companies. At the same time, Facebook is campaigning aggressively to get companies to pay for promoted posts to increase the reach of their content.(see good write up)
  • The lack of customer service as Seth Godin points out.
Need I say more.
It is important to note that Facebook is also becoming what Sherry Turkle describes as being like ‘job interview.’ Employers use Facebook to screen applicantes even though they could be sued for discrimination if they don’t hire the prospect.

Facebook’s Walled (in) Garden approach (trying to capture every user possible and keeping them on your website), which has been tried before by AOL, Prodigy, PathFinder (Time Warner’s old Web Portal) and MySpace, just don’t have a great track record.

Most of them have tried to keep users from treating the Web as their Oyster, building barriers to our free-style searching across the web. [I imagine, though, that Facebook will at some point change their search strategy and open things up a bit so that we can easily access other info across the web, especially those sites that use their log-in process.]

Older generations have also expressed concerns about how much people personal information share on a public wall. One has to ask the question graffiti will come back and haunt a user.

I might be alone in this thinking and I hope I am. I made a personal bet early on with Facebook, signing onto the site when it was still limited to students. (I used my email address)

And then there is the issue of Facebook’s Business Model. Can it really turn them into a profitable mega-company. Something company’s in the Social Business space (whether they are Facebook or an advertiser on social network) need to think about.

The reality is that many regimes and company’s have fallen due to the fact that they don’t listen to their customers. Especially the core base that got them started, such as college students.

Facebook needs to tear down the wall and open up its service more to the rest of the web and more important, listen to it’s people, so it avoids a collapse of an empire (Yes, I know it will not happen overnight)


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