There’s been a lot of talk over the last month or so about how Facebook’s new Edgerank tweak is hitting organic reach on brand Pages, and how unhappy Page owners are at the prospect of having to use the Promoted Posts function to pay for the distribution of their information to their own hard-earned fanbase. Various people have speculated that this could harm Facebook in some way. I don’t necessarily believe this to be the case as, if users stay with Facebook it is likely that brands will too, no matter how unhappy they are about it. But I do think that the new algorithm has the potential to damage Facebook in a far more fundamental manner than pissing off marketers.
Edgerank not only applies to Pages, it applies to people. And just as Edgerank has been slowly dialing down the number of users who see any given Page update over the last six months or so (latest estimates are that no more than 15% to 20% of a Page’s fans see any given post), it’s been doing the same to users’ personal status updates. I’ve seen several people on Facebook over the last few weeks complaining that they are simply no longer seeing friends’ updates in their newsfeed; that Facebook is sometimes eerily quiet, and yet visiting profiles reveals a whole world of stuff going on that they didn’t know about. That’s really not good, is it?
To add insult to injury, Facebook is introducing the option for individual users to promote their personal posts, or to pay for their friends to (possibly) see specific updates. And, for me, that’s where things really start to go off the rails. Facebook has always been a free service to personal users, and it has previously said it always will be. Hell, it probably says the same thing now. But this is nothing more than a sneaky and stealthy way of charging users without having to come out and ask for an annual fee. It puts money above user experience. Not cool, Facebook. Not cool.
Broken on Purpose
From a brand’s point of view, Edgerank ‘breaking’ Facebook’s core functionality on purpose means the company can extract more money from business users. The worse the platform performs, the more advertisers need to use Promoted Posts. But the most damaging effect of all this is that Edgerank is slowly decreasing the amount of interaction among friends. And that’s surely a very bad thing for Facebook, as it devalues a platform which was built around and boomed on the premise of connecting people. That’s why a billion people joined Facebook and why they stay. To butcher it is nonsensical. Isn’t that called pissing in your own pool?
It’s becoming very clear from Palo Alto that Facebook is now far more about data and profit than it is about serving users. The balance has tipped from making money while providing a free service to simply making money. Sure, the IPO bombed. Sure, it needs to be fully monetised. But there must be better ways and means than raping your own core product and hacking off your entire user base. Businesses have been feeling increasingly let down and left more than a little high and dry due to Edgerank for months, and now there’s a very real danger that users could go the same way. Facebook has completely lost focus, and that could be the undoing of all the good work that Zuckerberg has done over the last eight years.
What are your thoughts? Is Facebook on the verge of suicide?
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