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Facebook lost around 2.8M U.S. users under 25 last year (recode.net)
552 points by rblion on Feb 12, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 349 comments

Facebook suffered from 2 waves of "Eternal September"[0]:

wave 1: the addition of everybody outside your immediate friends and close family. You get the goofy uncle, the distant high school acquaintances, and all the work acquaintances from every previous job that submitted a "friend request" that you didn't reject out of politeness. The newsfeed gets polluted by nonsense such as forwarded memes, politics, and other junk.

wave 2: the corporate advertisers filling up the newsfeed that crowds out the desirable posts from your real friends & family.

The 2004 to 2008 period was probably the "magical" time for Facebook from a user standpoint. The initial wave of Harvard students had a beautiful user experience with TheFacebook. As for the new members joining Facebook today in 2018?!? Not so much.

Of course, ads are needed to pay for the datacenters so any social network like Facebook inevitably decays into a worthless waste of time.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_September

Not to mention the erosion of the idea that it is default-safe to share your social experiences with your group of "friends." Adoption by colleagues and family shifts the tone considerably towards LinkedIn, where one's professional image is paramount - and all that does is make the platform more stressful to use.

Facebook does provide tools to segment one's friends into groups to whom content can be privately posted, but from a UX perspective they're deemphasized. I see a lot more social conversations moving to group chats (some on Facebook Messenger, some on GroupMe/WhatsApp and the like), because membership is determinate, you make the choice of target audience before being prompted to make a post, and the context into which you post is not a newsfeed (which we've been trained to think is global to an entire circle of friends) but just that specific chat history. (I'm sure there's some psychology/UX research in that people don't intuit that a "posting destination" can be distinct from the list of content you're viewing.)

Chats are just a "safer space" to be oneself. And if Facebook wants to capture one's true self and preferences, it will need to evolve beyond the idea that a single newsfeed is the place people want to do that.

I know this is one tiny use case, but it's one that's bothered me for some time. I can't change my profile picture without it becoming a huge news story for family and "friends" to comment on. I change a little picture of me, remove the event from my timeline, and I still get hokey comments or messages reminding me how bored and lonely everyone I know must be.

I severely miss when it was just a place to chat up a cute girl you seen in college, or find out who's going to see NIN, etc.

I can’t remember if this still works, but you used to be able to set the privacy of your profile photo to “only me”, which would prevent it from appearing in friends’ news feeds. After a few days or so you could safely set the privacy back to friends or public and be reasonably assured it wouldn’t be seen as its own post.

It is completely silly that you have to jump through these hoops, though, assuming it’s even still an option.

Btw, hiding something from your timeline has absolutely no effect on whether it appears in friends’ feeds or not. It’s purely about whether people can see if it they go to your timeline. Which is pretty unintuitive and anti-user: if I don’t want something in my timeline, why would I want it showing up in people’s news feeds?

I can't comment on a friend's public post without it being broadcast to my timeline! this is the one dark feature that has most affected any good feelings I might have had towards facebook and my usage thereof

My mother is on Facebook, and she doesn't have many many Facebook friends other than me and the closest family. Resulting in Facebook posting an event to her Facebook news feed, whenever I do something on Facebook (because there's not much else to show in her news feed). If I post a comment in a discussion at Facebook, she gets to know about it, and sometimes joins the same discussion she too.

Sometimes it's fun to hear what she thinks about the discussions I join. At the same time, feels as if Facebook is in this case a surveillance tool. I know there are other people I'm connected with, who I don't really know who they are and also don't have many other friends at Facebook. Those mostly-strangers-to-me are probably also being sent notifications about everything I do.

Yep. I stopped using it when realized it was broadcasting comments I was making inside groups to everyone I was connected to. Even if they removed the feature, I wouldn't go back. The fact that they started doing it with absolutely no warning was a pretty good sign that I couldn't trust the company.

This has seriously reduced my willingness to comment on posts. Terrible feature.

Absolutely. I don't care if they stumble across it but I never want to broadcast a comment, at least not to people who wouldn't already have seen the post. The worst is when public groups use Facebook as the only way to contact them - I once posted a question about leaving a coat at an event and then got a message from a friend suggesting that I hadn't invited him to the event (it wasn't the kind of thing he thought it was, though). Why. Same for the profile picture change. I accidently put my profile picture to the wrong one of two and haven't changed it since I noticed a few days later that it was wrong and was embarrassed to broadcast this fact to everyone not once but twice.

Wouldn't it make more sense to simply assume that anything one posts to the Internet could potentially be broadcast to everyone they know and published on the front page of the New York Times? I don't understand why people think the content they post to a website will be kept private, especially if not keeping it private maximizes shareholder value.

But the thing is, I don't think it maximizes shareholder value. I would engage more with Facebook if my actions were quieter than if not. I don't really care that anyone can see it but broadcasting it is just crazy.

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. A little tact on the behalf of Facebook’s designers can save people a ton of unneeded frustration, even if it’s technically true that the info is public for people who want to do a thorough search.

Just because data is public doesn’t mean that companies can’t be criticized for exposing it in the most annoying ways possible.

Different threat model. Your friend isn't the NSA, and would be thwarted if it weren't broadcast.

A “broadcast this comment?” prompt after successfully submitting a comment, even a toggle that’s default-on, would solve this elegantly IMO. I have no idea why they don’t do it. Facebook was once great at understanding that people don’t want to draw outside attention to some things that they technically do in public. They seem to have ceded that ground to Snapchat entirely, which is a painful sentence to type.

> I have no idea why they don’t do it.

Not to beat this hackneyed drum to death, but: it’s because you’re not the consumer—you’re the product. They have armies of data scientists optimising their holy interaction metrics to death. They are incentivised to wage a holy war for your eyeballs, and wage a war they will. Every last base point is priceless at their scale.

Every single pixel, every possible user story, everything down to the very last detail is optimised for user interaction.

If you ever find yourself wondering why they missed something: they didn’t. It’s intentional.

Even if everything they do today is intentional and quantitatively optimal (color me skeptical), the site is still changing as the world changes and their user/"product" characteristics change.

The intentional things they do tomorrow will be different and may address issues like users becoming apprehensive about interacting when it's not clear who will get an e-mail saying "Psst... Hey... We thought you should judge what User has been up to..."

That sounds like a great way to overfit. I do not know exactly when it was, as it was in a lot of ways a "boiling frog" process, but from ~2010-2015 I felt the shift from "user" to "product", fully at the expense of enjoyment and user experience.

I agree, "broadcasting" your activity likely increases engagement within your network.

I have a separate account (with no "friends" apart from my main account) just for commenting on anything public, and for posting in public groups.

Sure, but that's because the post is public - I agree that it probably makes people increasingly unwilling to comment on such things.

Hmm. Most folks I know address the colleague issue with a "no current coworkers" policy.

(Not to imply you should immediately add newly-former coworkers).

> a "no current coworkers" policy

So if someone asks, Can you add me on FB? Would you reply?: No, I have a no current coworkers policy. Is there a way to do this without hurting people's feelings?

What you wrote is pretty good. To wrap it up, you can offer an alternative, like "let's do LinkedIn instead" so they know it's not just them you say no to and that you are actually interested in connecting with them not just blowing them off.

"I use Facebook for mostly family stuff. Are you on LinkedIn?"

When I was a TA, I'd have students constantly try to add me on Facebook. The conversation would go nearly exactly like you'd describe:

> Are you on Facebook? Is this your profile?

> Yes, but I'm not gonna accept your friend request.

The reply was usually a bit snarky with a bit of a chuckle, and that did it for most college-aged people. The few times someone persisted, I explained that Facebook is an aspect of my social life, not my professional life, and I intended to keep it that way.

That's exactly how you do it without hurting their feelings. It's an impersonal blanket rule.

I was in this situation many times and I have always replied with "sorry, I keep my facebook friends only to the closest group of friends and family". Never had any negative reaction to it(apart from my friend's crazy ex who decided he should absolutely break up all contact with me immediately and never talk to me again because I refused to accept her invitation literally within 5 minutes of receiving it).

I also frequently go through the list of my friends and remove everyone I haven't spoken to in a while, keeping my friends well below 100.

That's what I've done. Professional contacts/co-workers on LinkedIn (not that I use it all that much anyway), and family on FB (since I don't live in the same state I can use it to still see pictures my sister posts).

So do you de-friend people if you get a job with them? Or do you regard people you add after you've finished working with them as 'real Facebook friends' and let them stay privy to your social life?

I know I've definitely experienced a bit of a 'chilling effect' on the stuff I post since adding a few former colleagues. Tech is a small town and you never know who you'll be working with next year.

Someone who is your friend and then becomes your coworker is still your friend.

Someone who is your coworker and then becomes your friend is likely not really your friend in any real sense, unless-and-until you leave that job and they bother to remain in contact with you.

It's not a question of following some flowchart; it's a question of whether a given person values your relationship with them more, or values how they could get ahead using the information they've learned about you more. This fact is generally illegible for current coworkers, but mostly resolves out once you leave that job—the people who valued you personally keep in touch.

This fact is also generally legible for people who you meet outside of work: people mostly don't bother to get to know you unless they [expect to] value you personally. (Or they're conducting some form of long-term industrial espionage. I don't envy the people important enough to worry about this.)

I think Linkedin has the long tail advantage here in that since it was setup as a professional network, it tends to stay that way in regards to typical interactions and people will continue to build their network on Linkedin over their career. Additionally, Linkedin has the benefit that younger people will signup to CONNECT WITH OLDER PEOPLE as networking with those senior people might help them in their career. Facebook suffers from people assuming "hidden landmines" could exist from something they posted or wrote when they were in college, which disincentives someone to maintain and enhance new social or professional connections. So it is interesting to think about what happens when you lose young users, while simultaneously you have mature users no longer keeping their social network up-to-date on Facebook? A long time ago (in tech years), it seemed like part of Facebook's moat was that the switching costs would be high on a social network. Is this still the case? Would a reasonable analogy be what if Netflix stopped creating new content and expected continued viewership relying on only existing content? How long of a lead/lad would there be until a large drop in viewership? Facebook does owns Whatsapp and Instagram though, which provides an argument that the company is well positioned from the prospective of offering the platform for targeting group chats, and still being the epicenter of most people's social experience.

Exactly. Due to the ever-increasing friend list, I now consider posting to facebook effectively the same as posting something publicly and non-anonymously. Which I never do.

And the thing is that social networks are not nearly as sticky as they seem.

As https://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/networks/metcalfes-law-i... makes clear, multiple lines of evidence suggests that the total possible value out of a social network scales like O(n log(n)). (Yes, I am biased as one of the authors. But what shocked me was how many independent lines of argument the other authors came up with for the same conclusion!) As the experience of Facebook goes down, it takes less and less work for a competitor to make up the O(log(n)) first mover advantage.

I would therefore not bet on Facebook lasting over the long haul...

It’ll be a slow chip away and then a mass migration catalyzed by some event. The chip away is already well under way.

The truth of it, though, is that many people who are moving away from Facebook aren't moving elsewhere, they're disengaging the social media sphere. Many people are simply not logging in, preferring direct messaging, chat rooms, or in-person interactions. Nowadays, it feels like Facebook fills the "instant messaging" gap for people who never got into it, and, to be completely honest, that's often the group of people I feel the least imperative to connect with. As described in the comments above, I'd rather read a Discord chat with some people I know than see what the group of people I only communicate with via Facebook are saying.

I agree, and the chip sure seems to be arriving sooner, and progressing faster than my own (pretty sure my position is very short on facebook compared to most) gloomy forecast. Just looked it up and the domain: grandkids.com is being marketred by Domain Agents Platform Inc. advertising a min bid $500. A few years after the mass migration you predict, I propose that domain for Facebook's rebranding...

In a relatively recent discussion, I think on HN, Metcalfe apparently aadmitted his "law" was intentionally overstating the case.

My view is that networks also see an unavoidable per-node cost function, and that this ultimately defines network size. (You can work the relationship backwards to find the actual value.) I've suggested this to Odlyzko. He's not yet invited me to co-author a paper.


We need a social network experience where users own their data, and are presented with a simple and user friendly interface that connects this data with their chosen friends. Currently we have user data mined en masse at great privacy risk and for endless profit, ad infinitum.

Facebook has not decayed because of an influx of new users beginning with this "eternal september", but because of the pointed decisions by its leadership to choose greed over respect for its users. The paramount decision is the decision to go public, necessitating indefinite growth at any cost in order to satisfy investors. It must have been obvious to Facebook's early employees that a Facebook at the behest of investors would increasingly dilute the user experience, and yet only now do they lament what they created.

Are you running your own Masterdon server yet? I'm working on migrating my blocks to a new docker structure and hope to have mine up this month.

It starts with people like us, in tech, running our own services and connecting with friends or even strangers in our field and growing out from there.

I don't think any one big thing can (or should) replace Facebook. The future of the Internet needs to be diverse and distributed. People need to learn about RSS feeds again and posting their content to a variety of services or hosting it themselves (if they know how).

Sounds like you're describing Diaspora:


I have a feeling Diaspora isn't going anywhere anytime soon until they clean up their UX. Here's the initial experience:

1) Go to the site, click Join Us.

2) Get shuttled down the page to a wall of text. Click Sign Up since I don't want to read the text, and I see a green button.

3) See a list of "pods" - looks like a chatroom? I click the "Confused" button which auto-sends you to a pod.

4) See a bunch of text in German.

5) Press back.

6) Click the pod at the top of the list that says "US".

7) Get a 500 error.

8) Close tab.

I love the idea here, but I hate to say that it is poorly executed so far.

Snapchat was fine for choosing who to send what to, though their UX is garbage especially with their new experience. Something like that with its separation of concerns, particularly advertising, but not photo-based, would be wonderful.

All true, but the Eternal September for me came when I lost control of my feed to arbitrary ML algorithms attempting to maximize shareholder value whilst alienating the fewest users.

I think someone could recreate early FB on the blockchain and take a huge chunk of interesting people off of the two current awful choices. Because I do remember the time when it was fun to reconnect with people and follow their lives there.

> I think someone could recreate early FB on the blockchain

wtf does this mean?

I'm asking only because this sounds exactly as loaded and buzzwordy as "I lost control of my feed to arbitrary ML algorithms attempting to maximize shareholder value whilst alienating the fewest users" you've just gone the opposite direction with the hyperbole.

It means I would like "liking" a post of grumpy cat to use as much energy as a Toyota Carola driving from Miami to Washington DC. Luckily, actually posting grumpy cat photos causes brownouts, so there are none to like.

Hyperbole. Modern blockchains do not use much energy. This is an obvious great idea waiting for implementation.

You got a source for that? Everything I've read says they do. And yeah, obviously hyperbole in service of a joke...

I also have no idea why this is such an obviously great idea. I don't see anything obviously great about it. Care to explain.

It means move the authorization and verification of identity outside of any corporation and make the feed 100% user-controlled. Corporations end up pursuing goals frequently unaligned with the goals of their users because the users have become the product.

And are you really saying in 2018 that ML is just a buzzword?

Because what I see is an algorithm (whatever it is, probably some secret sauce ML goulash of topic models or clustering) picking stuff I don't want to see and burying stuff I do. Just give me the pure feed and the ability to follow/unfollow. This is apparently now hard(tm).

But it doesn't call for a blockchain to address. It calls for a subscription based social network.

It wouldn't need to be expensive either to keep the servers running. There would be no flashy advertising displaying links that you would never click anyway and there be no sneaky algorithms trying to maximize your clicks or your attention since that would no longer contribute to the company results.

Everything would be far simpler. Getting there is less simple.

    on the blockchain
Why? Everything else you wrote makes sense to me except for this.

Because I doubt a corporation would stay aligned with the non-paying customer long-term. Witness GOOG.

Compare and contrast with AMZN where the customer is indeed the customer.

I think we can have decentralized technolgy without blockchains though.

> Why?

Shysters gotta shyst. After all, somebody has to buy those heavy bags...

Have a look at Patchwork, which runs over the decentralised Scuttlebot https://github.com/ssbc/patchwork

Urbit's ambition is to achieve something that fosters that ability.

There is already SSB / Patchwork that was recently feautred here in HackerNews.



and if I understand correctly, the 'log' of your activity is basically a blockchain!

I like this. If I may propose one more…

wave 3: bots[1]

[1] https://mashable.com/2017/11/02/facebook-phony-accounts-admi...

I don't encounter bots on Facebook that much, but they're definitely ruining Instagram.

Years ago, I'd be more open to making "Instagram friends". However nowadays when I get a few likes, I go to the user's profile and see that their followers/following ratio is skewed, I know they're fishing for followers with a bot.

Ultimately all interactions on social media will be scripted by bots.

Not only bots are ruining Instagram, their algorithm showing you posts from 3 days ago and an ad every 8-10 pictures is a killer, pretty much forcing me to only see stories.

"Oh let me show you this picture that you missed 4 days ago when we where showing you pictures that are 8 days old."

I went through a bit of a phase for a week or two of trying to get more followers on my photography insta.

It didn't take me long at all to realise that the vast majority of new followers were either just straight up spambots, or were using bots to fish for followers.

Botting to fish for followers in Insta isn't the worst, usually it's just automating what a person would do: search for a hashtag; like photos; and drop some comments. But it really kills engagement when most comments are something like "Nice! :thumbs:", or "Love this! :heart:", and you know that 90% of accounts that follow you will automatically unfollow you in a week.

Instagrams social discovery aspect has been ruined. It has been taken over by bots and groups of people on whatsapp/$messaging_service that schedule when to post and all like the photo the moment it gets posted to boost it to the discover page. It has become all about gaming the algorithm.

Et-al's Law: "All interactions on social media will be scripted by bots"

If you add Atwood's Law to this, all social media interactions will be scripted by bots written in Javascript.

Then the brain-bender: What if you are that bot?

What did for me was the influx of the "you won't believe what happens next, this video will make you cry" shares, and then political diatribes (you may call it virtue signaling) by well-meaning friends. Unfriended many people to cull my list to around 100 and FB has been more palatable since.

I instituted this policy back in the days where people would constantly invite you to play their stupid games, they had to invite you or they wouldn't be able to play. But anyone who invited me to Farmville or Mafia Wars or any nonsense got unfriended. If you wanted me back, you'd have to start to uncheck my name when you clicked "invite".

I also do a soft sort of "if I haven't talked to you in three months" rule to get rid of stale contacts. It's not LinkedIn, I don't need people for future reference. If I haven't talked to them in three months and they aren't someone incredibly important to me, they're gone.

I agree Facebook is awful and they're making it worse every day, but a lot of the problems people have with it are self-made. I don't get people posting awful political opinions because I don't follow anyone who does that. I don't get spammed with memes because I don't follow anyone who does that. I don't see most of the ads because I have an ad blocker. I don't see people I don't know because I unfriend them. I don't see businesses I don't care about because I don't follow businesses I don't care about.

The only problem I have with Facebook as a consumer of Facebook is not seeing things from people I want to see things from. But I rarely see things I don't want to see, because Facebook gives you all the tools you need to stop seeing that kind of stuff.

I would love an option like "do not show anything from this contact unless it is original content, or at most share of an original content". That would remove 90% of the crap from the feed (i.e. the "viral" part).

What I don't understand is what is FB thinking?

Look at it this way:

What do I want to see?

Friend's image/text > Group image/text > Pages I like image/text > Friends of Friends image/text > Memes > Ads.

What does FB want me to see?

Ads > Doesn't matter.

So what do they do?

Ads > Memes > Friends of Friends image/video Pages/Group Image/Video > Friends Image/Video ------------------> Text.

Why? What financial incentive do they have to show me Memes over what I want to see?

Because if they show you:

Ads > Friend's image/text > Group image/text > Pages I like image/text > Friends of Friends image/text > Memes

Then you'll go through a few and then leave the site.

Ads > Friend's image/text > Group image/text > Leave FB

They optimize how much time you spend on FB, so they can show you more ads. Thus, it makes sense to stick the stuff you really care about at the end. To make it hard to find. Because, then instead of coming to the site and getting what you want, you'll spend an hour trying to dig through the crap to find what you want.

More "engagement" is more ads. Nobody at facebook through about whether it makes sense to measure "engagement" alone, or to try and measure some form of "valuable engagement", or "useful engagement".

What financial incentive do they have to show me Memes over what I want to see?

Because you scroll and scroll and scroll through the feed looking for something you actually wanted to see, and all that extra time spent is "engagement".

They are measuring and reacting. Ads make money so they will always have a certain priority, and everything else is a combination of your interests combined with what's popular as a whole. Memes are popular and/or your friends share a lot of memes so that's what gets shown to you.

Because as every big corporation without any creative mind of their own A/B tests shit ad infinitum. Whatever minimal change they made to the feed won an individual A/B test. Unfortunately the reality in life is not necessarily 1000 tiny improvements = 1 huge better product. Especially if there is no consistent thinking about the user experience.

I wholeheartedly agree with you that Facebook lost it's user focus.

Because in the acronym AI only one letter is true - Artificial, and Intelligence is just buzzword. They just can't do proper tailoring of news feed to you, so as long as ADs are prioritized and the feed is not entirely atrocious they just don't care.

> wave 1

I've found that regular pruning keeps my utility on Facebook very high. I only really have to visit it once a week (as my newsfeed doesn't stream all that fast with only ~50 friends) and it's highly relevant. Apart from the constant nags to friend people that I don't know, that is - Facebook seems to take issue with my succinct friends list.

> forwarded memes

People who I give a damn about are posting to my timelines, so even the memes are mostly enjoyable. If they aren't, there is usually something enjoyable soon after precisely because my timeline moves so slowly: the signal to noise ratio is pretty good.

The downfall of Facebook is in limited ways PEBCAK. Facebook encourages degenerate use of the platform, but you don't have to fall for it.

Facebook is no longer the best way for me to share content with people I care about. For me that's WhatsApp, Google Photos, and MMS.

My wife and I use Google Photos to share pictures of our child with our families thousands of miles away. It's unbelievably good. No ads, no bullshit promoted celebrity accounts I should follow, actually no social features at all except the bare minimum: 1) sharing albums with others (no Google account required AFAIK, it's email-based) and 2) leaving simple text-based comments on pictures and videos. No bullshit algorithmic reordering of content either, it's just all there in reverse chronological order. My 75 yo parents can't make sense of the Facebook clutter at all (I barely can myself) but they started using Google Photos as soon as they got the invite email out of the blue. I'm sure that Google is happy that I'm uploading my family life to their servers and they'll make money out of it somehow, but from a UX perspective it's close to perfect.

If you're using WhatsApp instead of Facebook, Facebook the company doesn't care, it's still money in the bank to them (selling advertisers a detailed profile of who their users are for targeted ads). The whole idea behind buying Instagram and Whatsapp would've been to stay relevant when the inevitable decline in their flagship product kicked in. Looks like their plan is working.

Buying Whatsapp and Instagram for ANY price where the best business decisions Zuckerberg and Co have done. By far. They knew Facebook would die off like myspace and friendster did. or BBS and Compuserve and AOL if you want to go back that far.

Social networks come and go in waves. Some stay longer, some fizzle out quicker.

Owning the biggest alternatives to your own network is a brilliant move. If Whatsapp or Insta kills Facebook, so be it. As long as no one else does ;)

At this point, communicating electronically basically necessitates someone collecting information at this point. I don't care. I just care that the dumb argument I had two years ago is in a chat room with 10 people I know and my employer will never see it.

> "At this point, communicating electronically basically necessitates someone collecting information at this point."

No, it doesn't require that. There are secure options. The main thing that keeps the current unsecure options in play is momentum, i.e. if not enough people care, nothing will get better.

I wish the “of course ads are needed” weren’t true. I am waiting for the service that charges me $1/month so that I can demand zero garbage: no unwanted sharing, no ads, no spying; just a useful service for storing photos and updating friends and inviting people to events.

True, but if your friends also needed to pay $1 then many of them wouldn't, and then the service still wouldn't be useful to you (despite paying $1).

It could be an unofficial share, like Netflix subscriptions. "Somebody" needs to pay, but if you know someone who has, then you can use the service fairly easily.

Why not just have a freemium model like a Facebook Blue or something? I pay you money, I get no ads and premium control of my feed. I don't pay you money, I get what I'm given.

At least in the US, that amount would be $7/month - what Facebook makes per user now.

Great reference to "Eternal September" - didn't know about that. I can now think of many examples of this happening to online communities.

You might also enjoy reading about ancient greek ideas of ἐσωτερικός and ἐξωτερικός

What would you recommend as a starting point? A quick google didn't have anything relevant, and Liddell & Scott just gives the straightforward interior/exterior definition.

I can see a connection between the eternal september and insiders/outsiders, but it sounds like you're getting at something specific and I'm curious.

Well from what I've seen in my googling, it seems to be a concept relating to the Unwritten Doctrine of Plato. He had esoteric teachings reserved for his close following vs his exoteric writings for the public. Esoteric came to mean shadowy/hidden, but it's really just how you say/think/act differently with an insider group then an outsider group.


Thanks! My google skills failed me.

Also, I get invited to "groups" all the time. Because my friends want to win beauty cream and free flights to X. I leave the group, then I get re-invited again. Then I leave, then I get re-invited again. Why is this a thing?

Is unfriending them the only way to stop it properly?

yeah I think so, which is not going to happen, still friends.

Wave 3: ruthlessly trim your friends list to make feed less annoying

Wave 4: still too annoying, deletes Facebook account altogether.

I kept the friends list, at least for people with whom I was OK sharing contact info.

I did, however, unfollow around 500 people or so, which shrunk my feed to only a small number of people whose opinion I actually care to read. FB really should make the unfollow option more obvious, because it largely solves the feed noise issue.

My problem is that I share certain things with friends from college, certain things with my parents, certain things with coworkers. When my friends list contained all of the above and there was no intuitive way to separate what I share to them, I stopped posting.

Yeah I remember being super-annoyed when non-college students were allowed on...

I think a significant portion of the issue is just that people have started to see and experience the downsides of projecting a running tab of their life for all to see, for all time. As people become more technologically literate, the appeal of selling your personal info for the dubious privelage of nothing much has to pale. I imagine the revelations that governments (US especially) are warehousing every scrap of data they can find on us hurts too.

Mostly though, FB is boring and depressing, and eventually even the easily swayed figure that out.

2005 was great for me as an old man taking classes at the University. My classmates said to get on this facebook thing and you could see everything from everyone, everywhere.

Made a bunch of random friends around the world and picked up a few college girls as well. :'-) Good times!

I thought everyone quit after the newsfeed in 2006? Then when grandma could get an account a couple years later.

I'm 34 and Facebook lost me as well. I can't remove my account as I need to use as a developer, but I unfollowed everyone and my newsfeed is empty. It's a bliss. Funny thing is, it's all Facebook's fault. Back in the days, the service was simply brilliant to see what's going on at your friends, at home and abroad. But when Facebook introduced the algorithmic newsfeed, the usefulness ended. I could no longer see all the photos and posts my friends' published. Now I had to rely on some weird algo - some friends were on my news feed, some others that I wanted to see, were not. I saw many more posts from pages that were irrelevant to me, much more reaction posts of my friends on stories that I don't care about, and finally - lots and lots of sponsored stories. Last year I got fed up with this mess, unfollowed everyone and now, if I want to see what's up at my friends, I go to my profile > friends > new posts and go to individual friends' profiles that I'm interested in. It's not a nice experience, but it's better than the algo news feed. Another benefit is that I use Facebook less and less. Interestingly, Twitter feed nowadays became much more interesting for me to read - although I had to unfollow plenty of mass-twitterers as well.

Similar experience, I think my problem with the algorithm is similar to slowing down to look at the car wreck on the side of the road.

I have a few a"friends" that post horrible stuff. Conspiracy theories, rants, and other posts that are just symptoms of poor mental health.

At first I stopped to read these in HORROR and disgust, because they stood out so much from the rest of my feed. Facebook takes that as a signal that this is the content I enjoy, and begins to feature it more and more heavily.

Looking back, if I had understood what was happening, I could have used Facebook correctly and worked WITH the algorithm. You have to think about the long term consequences of your viewing activity, and think of using your attention like farming to grow a good feed.

Facebook eventually needs to introduce a self-curation tool, so that people can promote the things/people they want, and remove the elements they dislike without Unfriending Grandma. For me it's probably to late. At 34 the college friends that I would like to keep up with haven't interacted with me in 5+ years, and the social awkwardness of rekindling those relationships isn't worth it.

On an unrelated note, I think many social networks will continue to die this way. As people move from PEAK FRIENDS in colleges to having lives where immediate family takes priority, I think the social presence will fade. The networks will take the blame, like MYSPACE, and FRIENDSHIP just are not good tools anymore, when really it was the person who went from having 100+ active relationships to 20.

Facebook's algorithm almost seems like a quintessential example of why you need to choose good metrics in optimization problems. Maximizing user engagement sounds great - it means people are using your website and enjoying it more, right? Turns out people weren't enjoying it more, they were using it more because Facebook was shoving controversial content (e.g. dubious-quality news, debates, crazy people) down people's throats and they couldn't keep their eyes away.

You know how Facebook tries to get me engaged? It puts photos of my ex-girlfriend and her friends on the top of my feed. Sure you're going to get me to look, but I'm not going to leave the website feeling as good as when I logged on. You bring up a good point about how you have to think about the long term consequences of your viewing, but then I feel that you don't get a genuine experience when you use the platform, and if Facebook wants this, they seem to really over-estimate users' mindfulness wrt what they're actually doing.

If Facebook never figures things out, I hope whatever network comes next doesn't get greedy like they did. In particular, they need to focus on driving engagement with positive interactions and content.

Facebook's algorithm almost seems like a quintessential example of why you need to choose good metrics in optimization problems.

IMHO Facebook gave the golden goose (algo) enough feed to gorge itself on and now it is unhealthy and only lays rusty iron eggs.

Yes, they optimized for engagement, and it destroyed the platform. This is like a parable or something. Truly.

In business school 10 years from now I fully expect people to write case studies on the business effects of algo optimization and local minima, etc, etc...

But they get paid per eyeball, not by the enjoyment level of the people using the system. They don't care WHY you can't keep your eyes away, as long as you can't keep your eyes away.

From their end, their metric was perfect.

Perfect in the short-term, sure, but if people are leaving the platform then their long-term eyeballs might be suffering for the sake of short-term eyeballs

It's worse that that. Not only does FB as a company get paid per eyeball, the individual managers get paid per eyeball. Inside the org, the incentives are perverse.


> Looking back, if I had understood what was happening, I could have used Facebook correctly and worked WITH the algorithm.

I wholly disagree. You used Facebook correctly. It's Facebook's fault for poorly interpreting how you used it. Anyone who's ever been stuck in traffic behind rubberneckers creeping past an accident should understand that bursts of attention don't at all mean that you have long term interest in something.

> Facebook eventually needs to introduce a self-curation tool, so that people can promote the things/people they want

A million times this. Facebook desperately needs matched like and dislike buttons, not for the purposes of voting content up or down, but so that it can learn what you actually want to see. Most music services grok this concept.

There is (or at least used to be) a menu next to people's posts that lets you stop following similar posts (or unfollow the person completely while remaining friends).

At least on the Android app, this is incredibly broken. Not only does it often not actually hide the item you try to hide, but most of the options that are available for this menu on the desktop web app are missing, so you can't actually unfollow the person 7 out of 10 times.

Still there, still works.

Seconded. I'm kind of surprised people use facebook without it. Bit like surfing the web without an ad blocker.


Facebook was really useful for keeping up with life events. I could stay connected and updated even with more distant friends and relatives. As soon as the algorithm "knew best" what I looked at I no longer got the occasional, but wanted, updates from those more distant. I would see what FB told me was popular - and some would play to that popularity. It would downplay to the point of censorship updates from someone if I didn't interact enough - whatever "enough" was. The feed is now almost completely beyond my control - no matter how I try to mess with groups and liking random posts to stop people being forgotten.

Once when you got a message and weren't around it would mail you the message. Now you get "Fred sent you a message log in to messenger to see it".

Now it's worse than useless for the reason I signed up in the first place.

Worse because, like a needy ex, it keeps pleading and whining for me to come back by email. I log in maybe 2-4x a year to organise with the few people that still prefer it as main point of contact.

If you don't already have an email address for all your spam, get one, then change your email address in Facebook to that one.

While the annoying emails still get send, you are at least no longer bothered with it in your day to day email use. Not ideal, but slightly better.

Of course you can also use email filtering rules, but seperating it physically makes it more likely you do not burn time on it by accident.

Why jump through all those hoops, just disable notification mails in the FB preferences?!

Because you might want to see some emails, but not the selection that FB deems important.

> But when Facebook introduced the algorithmic newsfeed, the usefulness ended.

What I find funny is that probably according to FB your "engagement" increased with that change. Beforehand, you would check the feed, and then hit something that you already saw and then stop: you saw everything that there was to see. After the change instead, you found yourself seeing again and again the same content, and you would keep scrolling that feed hoping to see something new.

Instead of 5 minutes it takes you 10 (and you still are not sure you saw everything you wanted), you're spending double time on FB, big win ! Who cares if the "productivity" (as in total enjoyment / time spent) decreased , more time = more ads = more money.

Lather, rinse, repeat, until the garbage is so much that one stop using it and the "engagement" drops completely.

Based on my own experience and the fact that I hear similar complaints often, FB’s News Feed team is seriously out of touch with users and what we actually want to see on there. I can only assume that they’re chasing tiny abstract metrics of engagement, and focusing more on the experience for advertisers than users.

I agree that the algo sucks. I want a LinearBook. I want a time-series database for my social network updates.

Isn’t that what Twitter is?

It’s quickly not becoming this, unfortunately.

It already is. Twitter is not sorted in chronological order.

The main reason I only us Twitter via Fenix on my phone, I loathe non-chronological and "curated" timelines.

Add to that the fact that the people who are most likely to think that they're shaping world opinions by arguing with their crazy aunt about Donald Trump on Facebook are also the most active... and therefore the highest-ranking elements of the feed algorithm.

Exactly right. I've gotten around this by using "Facebook Purity" a chrome extension which let's me filter what is shown on the news feed in detail: I only really want to see posts and photos the friends I haven't hidden from the news feed post - not their likes, the events they're going to etc. This is addition to "hide trending" and ublock makes facebook a bit broken but overall usable, not really worth checking in more than once a week though.

Instagram works better for getting a feel for your friends, especially with the temporary "snaps" people post and actually fun creative overlays.

Instagram stories also have become my primary social media "tool" these days.

I have friends scattered all over the world. Through Insta stories I can keep up with what they're doing and feel closer to them. All my friends have stopped posting on Facebook except for life events. Now everything is on Snapchat or Instagram stories.

I've also done the unfollow-everyone thing about a year ago and I thought I was a pretty rare case, your post leads me to believe that it might not be that rare.

As it stands, I only "follow" brands/pages as sources of news (predominantly non-political) and Facebook is actually moderately useful in that way. My news feed is now just topics I'm interested in and I cut out the friend-filtering algorithm portion, which makes Facebook a lot more pleasant to use. The onus is more on me to follow up with friends on what they've been up to and I'll probably lose touch with some along the way. However, it feels more genuine when I can talk about those things on a more personal level a few weeks/months after the event is posted online and I'm not just contributing another comment/like on a post.

I rarely visit Facebook because of this reason, even when I do return the feed is populated with ads and other garbage that you need to scroll through to "catch up"

I had the exact same issues with Quora. Both websites I used to hang out frequently. Facebook to see what was going on within my social circles (not content consumption) and Quora to learn new things from the people I followed.

Both websites became unbearingly bad after they updated their feed algorithm. To this day, this remains for me the quintessential case of bad product thinking meets over-engineering.

I think another factor is also that the internet has lost some of its novelty and innocence that it had back then.

In those early days people were still used to web pages being static lifeless documents. It was magical to be able to interact with it.

It was some time after and in the middle of the Web 2.0 hype and the rush for "web based everything".

Now people have app and internet fatigue. It has become a chore.

Same thing. Removed my facebook now I'm looking for a cryptocurrency backed one that rewards people for contributions.

Maybe like https://steemit.com/?

steemit is great, I want something similar but just a social graph to keep up with friends

I do this too. It's really eye-opening when you go to 'new posts', see some 'friends' have new posts, and don't bother clicking through to read their posts.

Same here. And now they're running Instagram in the same way.

> I can't remove my account as I need to use as a developer


In order to use some developer products and tooling you need a facebook account.


If you need to support Facebook oauth, you need an account.

Exactly. I was removing my account yesterday and they pulled this trick. After some careful analysis it turned out that of all my integrations (Github, Twitter, Facebook) Facebook was rarely used, so I removed support for it in my site, removed the app at developers.facebook.com and the account.

It's a huge waste of resources, IMO.

I've setup Raspberry Pi's that sync photos between myself, parents, siblings, and some friends that care.

We can, from our phones, drop them on the local Pi, and SyncThing powers the sharing.

But of course to share cat pictures, we should fire up thousands of machines running 24/7 in data-centers, and rely on tricks of psychology to keep people coming back as justification for keeping those computers on.

Services like FB are akin to a TV show -- not a broadcaster -- novel at first, but the story/characters don't change much (or for the worse in more cases than not), it grows stale for the masses, loses ratings, and eventually it'll end and only die hards will care.

And their real contributions, large scale compute cluster knowledge, is relatively well known and copied by others.

I signed up for Facebook recently after deleting my account 9 years ago. I was banned within 30 minutes after updating my work history and a profile photo. Submitted an appeal with my drivers license and passport. Unbanned in a couple hours. Kept building my profile over the next couple days and was banned 3 more times. Submitted appeals each time with all the requested information. Nothing malicious, political, or sexual posted, just the average guy setting up a Facebook account. Been banned for over a month now, finally just gave up. They never emailed me other than the initial welcome to Facebook email. Just had to try my login every couple hours to see if I was still banned.

Sounds like facebook has a pretty effective scam for getting people to give them driver's licenses, passports and untold other treasure troves of personal information.

Twitter has been using a similar scam for a couple of years now. After several years of Twitter, my account was locked and they demanded my cell number to "verify" my account. No thanks - said goodbye to Twitter and never looked back.

It was funny because a fresh account worked for me until I confirmed my e-mail address, then I was suspended until I gave them my phone number.

If they are so desperate to not have me as a potential user, then they can have it...

I used one of those 'burner' apps that generate temporary phone numbers to bypass that. The only problem is if they continue to use that for authentication as the numbers expire unless you pay $x/yr.

In what sense do you think a driver’s license is a “treasure trove of personal information”? Especially information which FB does not already have from other sources?

Proving to advertisers that the targets are real humans must have some value. I imagine fb somewhere shares a stat that's basically "n% of users personal details are verified with a valid ID!". IE, "dear advertisers, your ads are targeting real humans. We promise."

cynical, scary, hence probably true

There's no reason why this should be down-voted it's actually probably 5% of the reason people are leaving - bad UX in the security area - they have some bad ML algo that is banning and doing this to people. Only facebook probably knows the true numbers around this problem, but it's significant - it happened to me too.

If the solution is that bad, I presume the problem is leagues worse.

You came out ahead -- you are not a user of Facebook, which is far more productive than being a user of Facebook.

I just went through the same experience trying to set up paid ads. My account was suspended for "suspicious activity" and despite sending in a photo of my credit card with my thumb over the first 12 digits they still denied me. In the end after multiple engagements it was approved.

It lasted 24 hours before it was suspended again and had to do the whole thing all over again with the same copy/pasted responses.

Their fraud system is an absolute joke.

Did you get any kind of emails from Facebook during this? I haven’t heard anything from them.

Do you have an account already? Was this some kind of duplicate account prevention measure?

No, I did not already have an existing account.

Facebook should watch out with Instagram. It feels considerably more draining now than it used to. There are messages, stories, suggested posts everywhere. On the search feed I often end up in auto-scrolling videos.

These increase engagement and metrics. But, they produce an unwanted feeling of compulsion where instagram didn't before. I've uninstalled the app for a bit.

I never felt like that about Instagram before, but I remember first feeling like that about Facebook years ago. If I'm right, what I'm feeling about instagram is a prelude to others feeling the same. Instagram usage will first go up, then down.

I don't yet have that feeling about snapchat, though the new design is annoying. (Mixing in stories and messages)

Oddly enough, it has nothing to do with ads. I used to see them, back when instagram felt fun. Now I don't.

I have the same experience with Instagram. It used to show me interesting stuff, now it shows me interesting stuff from a few days ago. And a few days from right now, it will show me the interesting stuff that was posted right now. No amount of checking Instagram seems to make the delay go away. Every time I log in, the top of my feed is from 2 days ago. And I scroll for miles and still seeing days-old content that I didn't see days ago.

I'm using it far less as it keeps showing me stuff I don't care about from 5 or so days ago instead of linear timeline.

It annoys me because no one ever asked for non-chronological & there's no setting to change it. Instead it shows you stuff it ‘thinks’ you want to see but so far it has been way off the mark for me. And I've missed local bar promos as a result.

I'll give it credit though; it has encouraged me to unfollow a large amount of people it kept showing me repeats of.

I definitely feel less urge to engage on Instagram now than I used to as well.

Scroll until you see the first thing you saw the last time you checked the app. Do that every time you open the app and you'll never see things from before the last time you checked.

It's absurd that it's necessary, but it works 100% of the time for me since they moved to non-chronological sorting.

So THAT is how they artificially increase their DAU and use time - make the user experience only tolerable if you essentially have to use the app daily and be constantly updated.

Sure, but there's a certain amount of sense in that the fix for "I want to see everything posted by the people I follow" is "go look at everything posted by the people you follow".

Instagram is so frustrating. I want to see all the stuff in my feed but they actively make it hard to do so.

All I want is a complete chronological feed of media. No terrible sorting algo, no held back stuff to show me later, no suggestions.

I don't know why Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, etc can't have a simple toggle between chronological and the default algorithmic feed... I've seen everyone complain about this for years online and it seems like such a simple problem to solve.

Much like searching for Tweets, Twitter provides a "New" vs "Top" filter which does that same...

It has nothing to do with advertising as both views can include ads.

Same reason Netflix doesn't let you list all the movies on their site in alphabetical order - they want to create the sense that there is unlimited content. If every time you opened Instagram and there was no new content and you saw the same picture you saw last time you would just close the app. Now you never really know if there is no new content or not so you scroll down... and down...

It can’t be that simple, however, because all three show lots of old content for days even after you’ve looked at it. There must be some component of predicting the content you’re most likely to click on or guaranteeing views for promoted content.

It could also be that you only need a certain percent of new content to keep eyeballs. Thus, by only showing some new content at a time, instead of all at once (as in a chronological feed), you would increase user engagement time.

> I don't know why Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, etc can't have a simple toggle between chronological and the default algorithmic feed...

It's not that they can't have it. They have no incentive to do so.

Algorithm feeds provides the guarantee that an ad is seen by a minimum number of users, which is the entire value of facebook.

What? You can put ads in chronological feeds too.

Fair enough. So, why doesn't facebook allow chronological ads?

> I don't yet have that feeling about snapchat, though the new design is annoying.

I tried to try it out but even on a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 when it came out it was unbearably slow and even not using the camera drained the battery (IIRC it is/was because Snapchat kept the camera on during the time the app was open in order to avoid the 1-2s lag of camera setup). I can't understand why and how kids and young people like it so much.

>I can't understand why and how kids and young people like it so much.

That. That right there is why they like it so much. Because you're not on it. Their parents and grandparents are on Facebook, but those parents and grandparents can't figure out how to use Snapchat or don't see why kids like it, and that is exactly why kids like it.

It's the "adults can't see why kids love Cinnamon Toast Crunch" or "Trix is for kids" of their generation.

I'd get that point if the users were 14 years old. But hell adults use it, movie stars and other celebrities - no matter if the app is dumb and buggy as hell... I wonder if Snapchat usage in over-16-year-olds could be a sign of a dumbing down populace.

MKBHD had a good take on Android snapchat, in passing on this video where he announced he's leaving the platform for instagram: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-DfipidnOE

Basically, it's far worse than the iOS version, due to Android fragmentation and Snapchat's failure to code for the different camera of at least the high end android devices.

I have been using Instagram from 2011, with less than 100 subscriptions (mostly friends). Uninstalled it last month because of the compulsive story checks and the new messy algorithmic feed. Now I get there from iPad once a week.

Yeah. I just checked it from Flume on Macos. Not a bad experience, devoid of most of the growth hacking stuff.

Interesting you've had the same experience despite not growing your friends list. I had wondered if my own distate was simply because my list grew. Sounds like not.

I agree on the stories. They stole a march on Snapchat, but they may have destroyed what made Instagram enjoyable and stress free.

Bingo. They're going to pull the same drain and rake in money in the short term. They'll buy their next competitor and rinse/repeat.

Whenever I see a post like this on HN, I see the inevitable "the product sucks" posts in the comments.

As an engineer and social media user, I completely agree, but it doesn't seem to be bearing out in the marketplace. Facebook continues to grow[0] (if more slowly).

So what is the HN audience to Facebook? Our we taste makers? A demographic ahead of the product curve, predictive of Facebook's imminent decline?

Or are we simply irrelevant to the mass market? Are we the people going to the art house movie theaters while the masses flood into multiplexes for the latest Marvel sensory overload spectacle?


The number of folks here and on reddit and even back to Slashdot who had and continue to have negative reactions to incredibly popular things shows that it's really hard for techies to predict what will become a success. I don't think we're irrelevant or out of touch, I just think we really are in a market all our own.

Look at the overwhelmingly negative response to the iPod, which then went on to destroy CD players and every other brand of MP3 player, right up to the point where people just used their iPhone for MP3s, when the techie audience bemoaned the death of the iPod because their music library was too big to fit on a cell phone, at which point the mainstream switched to streaming services so no one noticed. Luckily there are still niche products catering to our needs.

Look at the complaints about the iPhone with no multitasking and no physical keyboard and no user-replaceable battery and no stylus, and the massive success it had which ultimately killed Palm, Windows Mobile, and Blackberry. Luckily there are still niche products catering to our needs.

Look at the complaints about the iPad, which killed the techie-favored netbooks. Luckily there are still niche products catering to our needs.

My rule of thumb is, if HN/Reddit/etc hates it because it doesn't have enough features, it's going to be a massive success in the mainstream market.

And all the HN hate for the MacBook Pro touch bar and keyboard, while it sells incredibly well.

lol, Apple products in general. ;)

I suspect you're making the usual mistake of assuming the vocal people are representative. Most of the users post nothing, and many of the rest post very little.

The people you see posting (you and I included) are weird. Betting against the product choices of wierd people is probably at least somewhat effective as an investment strategy.

Really interesting question to think about.

My gut instinct is both: HN can spot a tech product in decline faster than the majority of people, and I believe we’ll slowly see more and more people move away, along with a lack of younger folks coming onboard. But not everyone will depart: I think Facebook will decline but not cease to exist. It’s the new “TV” to a certain chunk of the population.

I thought the same about MySpace and Digg after they were both eclipsed by Facebook and Reddit respectively - but to my surprise the owners both shut them down and relaunched reinvented versions many years later.

the growth they present is not telling the whole truth. So called MAU and DAU can be for example a person like me who hasnt been on fb.com for 2 months, yet when I visit newspapers and scroll to bottom I see facebook comments section with my profile picture on. Meaning FB will now count me as an DAU/MAU.

Look beyond those selective statistics, FB.com is dead.

>Look beyond those selective statistics, FB.com is dead.

That's a bit of a strange conclusion when their financials show increasing revenue and increasing profit, quarter over quarter and year over year. From 2016 to 2017 their revenue grew almost 50% as did their Net Income[0].

It's not all roses of course, but it's hardly dead.

[0] https://finance.google.com/finance?q=NASDAQ%3AFB&fstype=ii&a...

They are squeezing every last drop out of their userbase, but the numbers do not lie. Decreasing DAU/MAU in their most profitable demographics means that their revenue numbers will eventually suffer.

You sure the under 25s are the most profitable demographic? Us over 25s often have more cash to spend.

Ah, I meant North American users, which are the highest ARPU users for Facebook. I don't know the breakdown of ARPU for different age demographics within NA.

> So what is the HN audience to Facebook? Our we taste makers? A demographic ahead of the product curve, predictive of Facebook's imminent decline?

We certainly aren't taste makers. HN is so small that it is irrelevant.

> Are we the people going to the art house movie theaters while the masses flood into multiplexes for the latest Marvel sensory overload spectacle?

We are just victims of the ongoing media campaign against facebook and social media. Once facebook gives in, the media will shift their hate to something else. Every time I come on HN, it's the same old facebook story. So just do what I do and click "hide" whenever you see an article about facebook on HN.

I wish HN would offer us the ability to filter our stories. I don't have facebook. Never used it ( I'm a unicorn ). I don't want to read headlines about it every day on HN.

I'm slightly puzzled by the degree of negativity to facebook for example as I quite like it. My theory is HN folk analyse things more deeply than the public and worry about stuff. For me facebook is something where I can post some pics and see some friends and message them and that's about it.

Just like anything - the techies and first adopters tend to set the trends. If the HN crowd thinks its useless then it will start to trickle down to Normies, might take awhile though.

I've noticed as a techie that I've actually run behind a batch of what you call normies, that decided to quit or entirely restrict their FB activity many years ago due to unwanted social drama / conflict.

About ~8-10% of my Facebook friends quit over a four or five year span. Typically not long after joining Facebook and beginning to contribute (within a year or so). Those accounts have all just been sitting there quasi-dead with blank images, for many years (although they're still on my friends list, and no doubt counted by FB as a user (but not a MAU)). None of them have ever come back alive.

I think we're just not the target market. By "we" I don't really mean HN, I mean just developers in general. Sample size of one, but I know in my own social circle, male techies = not really social media users. I think it probably has a lot to do with extraversion vs. introversion, and also if you happen to have some personal traits that tend to be social media friendly (photogenic, popular, etc.)

A demographic ahead of the product curve, predictive of Facebook's imminent decline?

I was a FB user when it was still closed to the general public (using my alumni email address) so yes, I would say that I/we are that demographic.

What I see is: everyone is moving to private, carefully curated groups on WhatsApp, where sharing outside the group will get you instantly ostracised.

The product sucking and the product being popular aren't exactly mutually exclusive. Something could make all of the people who use it miserable but still be addictive enough to become and stay popular.

(I don't think it's solely this. I figure it's a mix of this and both things you said.)

That because Facebook was smart to purchase competing services such as Instagram and WhatsApp.

I believe a lot of comments are about their main site which I also agree that got dramatically worse and no longer provides the same value it once did.

Started using FB in 2004 when there were barely a few hundred thousand users. It was great as a college freshman going to a new place not knowing anyone and needing to make friends fast and keep up. In my 30s now and have almost completely stopped using facebook. I check in once every few months, usually when I need to sign in because someone messages me there instead of email. It's actually stunning to me that Facebook is lumped in with other tech giants like Google and Amazon. If the services that google and amazon provide disappeared tomorrow it would have a sudden and devastating impact on many parts of my life and business. If facebook completely disappeared, I honestly wouldn't even realize it for at least a couple months (until the next time I check in) and even then I wouldn't care one bit. In all honestly I think it would be an improvement to society.

Facebook is used differently outside the US.

When I worked at a telco in Afghanistan in 2014, Facebook was basically its own utility - SMBs and individuals used Facebook (and their precious cellular data) almost exclusively to message each other and conduct business. So much so that the most popular consumer/retail plans for Afghans were "Facebook usage plans" giving you X amount of data per month to be spent exclusively on Facebook. Amazon/google have little to no power over there, facebook has a ton. Ditto whatsapp.

I think you'll find this is true for almost any country where social ties are stronger than the US, and biz is newer, or built around mobile/face-to-face transactions - fbook is much more important than it is here as a photo feed and news consumption hangout.

That said I agree for the US case and deleted my facebook ~2 years ago :)

It's not even just in developing countries that this happens. You could substitute New Zealand and you wouldn't be far off the truth.

When I used to work in the restaurant industry, my boss would order wine from one of the wineries using Facebook messenger. There are also social data plans that give you cheaper rates for Facebook, Snapchat, and some other services.

I'd also say that a lot of people I know exclusively get their news from Facebook and it's also very important as a photo sharing application.

I've seen the effect you describe also in the Philippines and other developing countries I've visited. Some Filipinos don't seem to realise that FB is just a walled garden on the internet, not the internet itself.

Also, I think your second point contributes to this: mobile is huge in the Philippines, they send more texts than any other country. And on top of that, social ties are a lot stronger than those in America, especially familial ties, with many siblings, cousins, etc.

This is because of Facebook's Internet.org.

Facebook has zero-rating on mobile in the Philippines.

> I check in once every few months, usually when I need to sign in because someone messages me there instead of email.

From what I've been hearing from internal teams, Facebook is hoping to take some of email's pie. I expect to see them pushing more people to use Facebook Messenger in place of email. And they're working on new types of ads that interface more with the Messenger. E.g. start a conversation with a company instead of taking you to their web site after clicking the ad.

Facebook is perhaps the last company I would trust with my email.

Sounds like 2010 when they gave everyone an @facebook.com email address to try to... take some of email's pie.

I remember that day, it was the day I abandoned facebook. Reading this thread confirms that I haven't been missing out on much aside from heaps of dark patterns.

How many users are just hanging on?

I use FB very occasionally for some events, but mostly never login. I get nagging notifications about how much I'm missing, but it doesn't feel like much.

I suspect there is a growing population of people with similar usage patterns. Are we really monthly active users?

I have three use cases that keep me there:

1) I'm in a couple specific regional groups that AFAIK have no non-Facebook counterpart (though they easily could). I think Facebook does groups poorly, but they serve the "non-technical community space" use case much better than any other popular offering that I know of.

2) It's the easiest way for me to blast low-key questions/updates/etc. to most of my friends and family. (I don't have everyone's e-mail address and even if I did, e-mail is often too "active" a medium. Like sending a letter vs. posting on a billboard.) Twitter serves a similar purpose but (a) most of my network does not have an active Twitter account, and (b) Twitter and Facebook serve subtly – but importantly – different social purposes.

3) Since the demise of XMPP and subsequent fragmentation of the IM ecosystem into sundry walled gardens, some (a small minority) of my friends are most readily accessible via Messenger. Strangely enough, SMS seems to have regained footing in this space in my network.

>1) I'm in a couple specific regional groups that AFAIK have no non-Facebook counterpart (though they easily could). I think Facebook does groups poorly, but they serve the "non-technical community space" use case much better than any other popular offering that I know of.

These used to be called "forums" and were very popular until Facebook invented groups and murdered them all.

Forums traditionally have been difficult for non-technical users to set up (requiring at a minimum configuing and paying for a shared web host). Certainly I don't recall any popular "managed forum" service pre-Facebook.

That's how I feel too. I'm not sure if it's because of Facebook itself, or just more about my personal growth and realizing that spending much time on social media in general was a waste of time.

I've found that I just care less what people are posting about than I used to, and I care less about posting my own stuff too. Would rather catch up when I see them next in person. And if I'm never going to see them in person, they're not really a big part of my life anyway.

Facebook's algorithm seems to get worse as time goes on too. It tends to show me the same old posts from around 20% of my friends and ignores what 80% of my other friends post. Maybe I'm technically wrong about this, but that's how it feels.

I check about once every one or two days for 10-30 seconds. The only reason I keep my facebook around is in case someone wanted to contact me. I've deleted most of my posts, my pictures, all of the other random information, and deleted a lot of friends recently as well.

They release some information in their earnings report about user activity. [0]

Daily Active Users = 1.40 Billion. Monthly Active Users = 2.13 Billion.

It's hard to extract too many statistics out of this. It's just fair to say that if someone used Facebook at all in the last 30 days, they probably (>50% chance) used Facebook today.

[0] https://investor.fb.com/investor-news/press-release-details/...

Considering they don't release metrics such as average/median time spent, there is no way to know what degree those users are actually engaging vs simply clicking on some spammy push notification at some point in the last month (which get increasingly spammy the longer you haven't been engaged).

This is exactly how I feel. I go on Facebook less than half a dozen times a month (sometimes zero)... I still have an account, but even that feels like it's only a matter of time before that goes way too...

same, I used to be fairly active on facebook during my highschool and college years, ever since it started filling my feed with politics, ads and junk I've been much less engaged with facebook. I disabled my account for a period of time and now I'm only hanging on to it because 1) it's still the one app that most of the people in my circle have accounts on 2) for organizing events 3) advertisement purpose

I keep my profile to use Facebook login everywhere else.

Regardless of user age, I have no idea what FB is 'for' anymore.

The whole egosphere thing of celebrating your latest life success with posts is only ok for a small social circle. The idea of a captive user being fed 'feeds' has killed off that intimacy amongst friends in an already elderly and visually sterile environment.

I have a FB account and around 1400 'friends'. I rarely post on the account except to post articles about FB's shortcomings and in private groups about old cars I own, which is a sort of useless unsearchable lightweight forum use, a bit like the old AOL groups.

Why post comments about yourself to people you have only ever met online? The only reason I can think of is for the self congratulatory ego boost...and under 25's clearly don't get a hit off doing this on their grandpa's online channel...

I use it for two things, albeit on different accounts. For myself, I keep in touch with a small circle of friends (20/~400) for personal stuff - family news, similar sense of humor etc., and participate in a number of groups, in much the same way I would on HN. Groups are where it's at, really. Oh, and I follow some news pages on specific subjects. FB is generally a terrible way to get news but an OK way to filter it to pick up high-quality content that might otherwise get lost int he shuffle.

My other accounts are purely for research, social network analysis and so on.

I HAD to sign up for an account - don't ask why. After about 1 hour of usage trying to do what I had to get done, it REQUIRED a phone number for security purposes. Seconds after I entered the phone number (for security purposes) I was blasted by about 400 recommended connections including some ex-girlfriends that I'm sure my wife would LOVE me to be friends with. Go facebook. I'm guessing those people got notified that I was there too, but at least I was able to delete the account.

The other side probably got notified too. I remember seeing a peculiar name on FB's "you might know..." list, I wondered where I saw that name before. I looked in my mail inbox, and it's a guy who sold me something on eBay a few years ago. I never gave Facebook access to my mail account, but what I'm pretty sure happened is that guy did just that. FB saw that we exchanged some emails, and said (probably to both parties): "Hey, be FB-friends with this person!".

I wonder what the security implications are. I think a security researcher added a lot of phone numbers into his phone and let Facebook read it, and Facebook responded with names and faces of those numbers.

This happened to me too. There was a guy on Reddit looking for help setting up Plex on a dedicated server. I run a small chat room and helped him out in there.

But we did exchange a few emails. I use fastmail and he uses gmail. A few days later he pops in the people you might know thing. At the time I did not have a cell phone so I am assuming he gave the app access to his contacts or something.

I think it is safe to say Facebook has a pretty detailed profile about you even if you never made an account.

Facebook can't even guess my name on emails I receive weekly about what my “friends” are up to. They think my name is Martin Salum. ps: never used facebook.

You think that's bad? This was a really good expose on the darker side of Facebook's "People You May Know" feature:


As unnerving as it might seem, let's not forget that Facebook has a HUGE database of faces and relationship with those faces. Even though is not active, Facebook AI could easily auto-tag me in every photo ever posted by anyone, friend or foe. Therefore, facebook could also make a connection between your "real me" and your "other secret me", purely on a set of photos, tags and profile pictures

RE the phone number thing, isn't that common knowledge? You can type in any phone number, and if their privacy settings allow it, their profile pops up.

Oh it's 2018, being friends with all of your exes is just the norm, so you can constantly live in the past, never letting go..

I'm 25, so right on the edge of the demographic mentioned here. I have been using Facebook for 10+ years now, and I was pretty closed to quitting entirely about 2 months ago.

And then suddenly ... my Facebook has been fixed. I had recently started "unfollowing" people who annoyed me and also un-liking all brands. Facebook has also done some recently algorithm changes.

A year ago my Facebook was a randomly-ordered stream of nonsense that was 80% branded content and 20% of my most antagonistic "friends".

Now it's a seemingly chronological view of what my Facebook friends are doing. If I leave Facebook and come back an hour later, it's basically the same feed with ~5 new posts on top. This makes it something I can actually check and not a black hole.

I hope they continue in this direction. They've got fantastic ad targeting and if they keep users around they can probably keep their ARPU really high.

The typical Facebook user is now a middle-aged/older person with a lot of disposable income. that is why the company is doing so well and why this loss of young users is not a big deal. Also, Instagram is filling that niche, so Facebook, which owns Instagram, wins either way.

FB seems to be on its deathbed. It's obvious that it's completely lost on young users (18-25), and even young adults (25-35) are just about done with it.

Serious question: is now the time to disrupt? What would the "next" MySpace/FB look like? Ignoring techie "features" like decentralization, what do you think users actually care about?

Whatsapp, Instagram and Snapchat are already far in the process of obsoleting Facebook and scooping up leaving and young users.

2 of those 3 are now owned by Facebook

Also, Snapchat has been neutered by Facebook closely duplicating their features in Instagram.

They can ape features but I feel less inhibited sharing content on Snap than I do on Facebook nowadays.

And how long until Instagram suffers the same fate?

They have already been decreasing of the charm of Instagram by adding more and more features… Basically, turning it into Facebook. In the large circle of artists that I work in, a slogan that is being oft repeated lately is “make Instagram chronological again”. I do use Facebook, but I don’t post much content as when I do, it’s almost useless because they don’t show my content to anyone. Instagram is increasingly the same way.

I think demise of Instagram is bit far off.

I'm traveling the world right now and observing people on the street and a lot of people browse Instagram more than any other apps.

I wouldn't be so sure about that. It is definitely ripe for disruption (and I've been saying that for a while) but on its deathbed? Far from it.

I don't think it will be disrupted. Facebook is like world of warcraft. I don't think there will be another in the same way again.

The only thing I use it for is messaging people whose phone number I don't have and a couple of groups that have events near me.

Facebook is one of the companies that banned the word Kurdistan on the request of Turkish government. that means for Kurds in Iraq and Iran which unlike Turkey, the word kurdistan is not only not banned but also legally is an official federal region and official province name, we could not choose Kurdistan as our hometown in the profile. I personally spent more than 10 years reporting this "bug" but it was never solved. later I found out it was an internal guidance from facebook to ban the word Kurdistan. I am glad to see such evil organization is going down the tube.

Facebook still hasn't lost me and my group of 25-something friends, but we have pretty much all turned off notifications, dabble in disabling our profile every now and then, and only rationalize not deleting it for saying hi to grandma, creating and RSVPing to events, and the ubiquity of Facebook Messenger.

The only ones posting (or at least the only posts that facebook shows me) are a mixture of advertising, extremely politically driven posts and links, someone's birthday, and a random smattering of generic posts from friends with whom you don't keep contact.

Our primary social media is group chats, texting, and snapchat, and reddit.

Reading these comments, I have a different perspective. My FB experience is pretty much sharing my kid/pet/food/vacation pictures and looking at everyone else's kid/pet/food/vacation pictures. This will continue until no one in my social network has any of these to share or they start sharing them somewhere else. In other words, my circle of friends will go wherever the "social action" is.

Facebook is a case study in revenue driven product design, especially in comparison to user and purpose driven product design. It seems to me that Facebook made the mistake of thinking that they were all one and the same.

You can't seriously believe that someone like Zuckerberg isn't smart enough to see the difference. My theory is he doesn't care what happens to the company as he's already made his fortune.

The tone of your comment aside...

Is it so hard for you to believe that a group of corporate leaders can think that doing something (a strategy) can serve their user, their purpose, and their bottom line all at the same time, equally? It's probably one of the most prevalent self delusions in the corporate world...

In fact, I'd argue that the smarter the group of leaders think they are, the more likely they are to fall into said delusion... Since they'll think more of their strategies...

In response to your second point... Considering a large portion of Zuckerberg's wealth is in Facebook stock, and that Facebook also owns one of its chief competitors... I doubt it.

My point wasn't about whether the were doing it (I'm sure they were) but about whether they were confused about it.

Huh? Whether they were doing what?

Optimising for revenue at the expense of everything else. They knew what they were doing, they just didn't care.

Time and time again I see the complaint that people want a 'Most Recent' news feed instead of algorithm-chosen and that's why they don't use Facebook anymore.

This type of feed would be unusable for the vast majority of users.

Why? Because of Page Likes.

I struggled to find quantitative data on this, but I myself like over 600 pages, and I'm selective. Many people like over 1000.

With a Most Recent news feed, those hundreds of pages would be posting multiple times a day vying for your attention.

100% reach, organic and zero cost? It's a marketers dream come true.

Add to that, I really only want to see posts from maybe 20% of my 'friends', and I believe this to be representative of the average user.

"Curate your friends list and page likes!", I hear you say.

No. I'm not bothered unliking hundreds of pages and neither is the average user. Not to mention, I did chose to hear from these pages for a reason. For friends, it's mostly socially unacceptable to unfriend people even if you haven't talked to them for a few years.

Hence, the algorithm that does the curating for me, because there's really no other way around it.

ps. I'm taking some liberties here speaking for an average user. I welcome data that shows I'm incorrect. The best I could find was from 2013 so is irrelevant.

With a Most Recent news feed, those hundreds of pages would be posting multiple times a day vying for your attention

Then people would simply only "like" things that they really liked and really wanted to see. This is a non-issue.

They already like too many things. The action has already happened, your suggestion would only apply for new users. And as I mentioned, I don't believe people will curate their feed by going to the effort of removing hundreds of page likes and friends. They'll just stop using it because that's too much work.

It is surprising that most folks reading HN are in some kind of bubble. I see people here commenting how they have never used facebook since last X years and they are fearful about facebook and privacy.

Are you kidding me? FB has 2.2Billion Monthly active users.

Really, it surprises you? A website tailored to typically well-educated people with a strong interest in science and technology who all speak or can communicate in English and put some kind of value in online discussion.

That’s already 0.00001% of the population, of course we’re a bubble.

The question is: is HN ahead of the curve with distaste toward FB, or an anomaly? There’s another thread on this post discussing just that.

Not necessarily ahead of curve, most normal people don't care about the feed algorithm. They are happy to see what their friends and family are doing.

The problem here is that MAU statistic is extremely suspect.

I agree. but the deviation is not that huge.

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