Monday, August 25, 2008

The REAL Story Behind the "New Facebook"

If facebook sent you an announcement indicating that Applications were being deleted from the site, how would you feel?

Possibly, a mix of relief, indignation, and apprehension. Relief that your facebook experience wasn't going to be so chaotic anymore. Indignation that the efforts of all the little people out there to build apps were suddenly being shut down. And apprehension that, with apps gone, you might be missing out on something great.... something great that you could have used or played with if apps had been around.

Well, prepare to unleash those feelings. I am sorry to report that the "new facebook" has been introduced primarily to brush Applications under the carpet. Sure enough, applications are still a part of facebook. But they are a hidden part, one that facebook makes you work extra hard to find. And they are harder than ever to receive: all the work you do sending hatching eggs to your friends goes quite unnoticed now.

Consider this: what is so "new" about the new facebook? Here are some of the differences you may have noticed:

+ Some of the stuff that was on the left was moved to the right, and vice versa;
+ Some borders and shadings have been removed or added;
+ Stuff has been moved into "tabs"

These changes, especially the last one, make the site a lot "cleaner." Basically, a lot of junk that you were looking at before (i.e., applications) is back in the invisible tabs now. You click on them sometimes. Sometimes. Kinda like how you click on advertising sometimes :-).

What's in the front tab? It looks kinda like facebook used to look... before the whole applications thing got started.

There are three main ways to interact with facebook applications: through your own mini-feed; on the profile pages of other people; and via emails that you receive. The latter method of communication is restricted almost to the point of making all of the apps worthless. Now, the former two methods have also been hobbled.

There you have it. May the relief, indignation, and apprehension commence. Personally, I feel mostly relief. I liked a lot of the facebook apps, but the quality is "inconsistent" and it's part of a grand strategy of trying to be everything to everyone -- which, as it turns out, is the exact definition of not having a strategy. Of course, now that the apps have been shuffled away, it looks like maybe facebook did have a strategy: the apps were helpful, for a while. If you believe that, you may want to move your "indignation" slider a bit to the right. But maybe it would be wrong to credit them with that idea, since technology companies tend to be short on foresight. And now we are back to the basics of facebook, and the basics are a beautiful thing.