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Facebook is Big and Boring (rachelbaker.me)
155 points by rachelbaker on April 1, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 101 comments

I think what facebook does for a lot of people is allows them to have an online presence without having to:

1) Buy a domain name 2) Pay for hosting 3) Install WordPress, etc.

This is really great for people who don't want to deal with the complexities of hosting their own site but still want to be able to post stuff.

The problem is that with 600m users everyone's presence online starts to feel the same, cookie cutter, boring. It's like if everyone in the world had to use the same stylesheet. If you look at things like the profile image strip hack, people are dying to be unique (even if the only way they can do that is by copying other people's hacks).

I think there will always be a place for Facebook, my mom isn't going to head on over to namecheap to register a domain anytime soon. But I think that facebook is homogenization of the internet, and I think it's boring.

Most people don't really care about having a "presence" online (if they did, they'd already have a blog out there). Facebook is about your friends and social network; your mom is on Facebook because her friends and family are, not because she has great opinions and stories to tell the world. Facebook's success has very little to do with being a platform to post things on, those are simply features it evolved into.

Although I do find it humorous you would mention profile customization as something people want or care about. I personally hated the disorganization and tacky pages on networks like MySpace.

Agreed, I think the other point is that people hardly go to people's facebook pages anymore. When I first add a friend, I might go check out their profile. But after that, it's all about the news feed and what everyone is doing at the moment. When you can comment from the news feed on whatever post your friend just put out there, why is there a need to even go to the facebook page?

No, your mom's on facebook because her friends and family are posting photos and comments about their lives on facebook.

So in a sense, it is "just" a simplified blogging platform with strong social connections between people that makes it so popular.

Yeah, everybody looks at facebook from their own perspective, business people think it's boring because you can't customize it enought, similarly teens look at facebook as a place for teens to hookup, etc. I recently saw a post from a +- 14 year girl saying "I think people over 18 shouldn't be allowed in facebook, its gross". Hehe go figure.

Agreed, but I will take boring any day over the abomination that was MySpace. User-customizable styling only works when users have the taste and technical knowledge to use it appropriately.

I used to feel this way, but I've had a change of heart.

Why shouldn't someone be able to express themselves by having bright pink text on a bright rainbow-unicorn background? It's not my cup of tea, but I bet it makes a bunch of people happy.

The best solution, imho, would be to have user-styles enabled by default (these could be as ridiculous as people wanted), and then having a standard site-wide mechanism for reverting to the standard style (this would also shut down any background music or videos).

Reddit does this, and it works well. They allows subreddits to be styled as the mods like and give the user an option to disable the custom styling globally. The Reddit Enhancement Suite takes it one step further and allows subreddit specific toggling of custom styles.

Works well for me. I turn off the annoying ones.

User-customizable styling only works when users have the taste and technical knowledge to use it appropriately.

This is true of any privilege. If you take away some right to prevent misuses, you also prevent people from using it correctly. If you could style your Facebook page any way you wanted, 99% would look like crap. But 1% would be works of art. The current system prevents that 1% from ever existing.

(I could think of a million analogies for this. If cars were limited to going 35mph, then nobody would speed. But nobody would be able to drive someone having a heart attack to the hosptial as quickly as possible. 99% of the time, speeding is just some jackass in a hurry. But 1% of the time, it's essential for preserving human life. So it's allowed.)

I only partially agree.

I'd say that most people are not on Facebook to express themselves, they are on Facebook to interact socially. When people are on Facebook, they primarily are looking at other people's information -- not their own profile. With a personal site, you typically spend time customizing it and creating content, not interacting.

This leads to much different design goals. With Facebook's homogenized appearance, it is much easier to keep track of everybody.

I think people interact socially by expressing themselves. We are inherently social creatures and our self-image is shaped by the judgement of others. To improve our own self-image, we try to influence other people's perception of ourselves.

Facebook is great (popular) because people have a blank slate for creating a public persona, then can instantly see feedback from other people reinforcing their created persona.

Right. One of the ways people earn social capital is by exhibiting creativity to peers. danah boyd has written a lot about the kind of identitive performance that social networks enable.

Blogging platform already solves this by selling custom, good looking templates.

If Facebook starts doing this, they will be swimming in even more money.

well, if you want a site that is basically facebook but allows you to customize your profile, i hear myspace is up for sale.

I've run into many stats lately on women's use of facebook: 1. "Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, has talked about how women are not only the majority of its users, but drive 62% of activity in terms of messages, updates and comments, and 71% of the daily fan activity." 2. "Women aged 35-54 are the most active group in mobile socialization" 3. "Most women — 83% of respondents in this survey — are annoyed at one time or another by the posts from their Facebook connections."

[1] http://techcrunch.com/2011/03/20/why-women-rule-the-internet... [2] http://mashable.com/2011/03/23/mobile-by-the-numbers-infogrp... [3] http://mashable.com/2011/03/30/women-facebook-survey/

So, I started talking to the women in my life about facebook. And I have a speculative theory - sorry that this is a theory based on gender and its kind of vague.. but facebook makes so much more sense to me when I look at it this way, and I find it an interesting discussion.

Basically, you have mother types and you have single women types. Single women are the early adopter social photo sharers - this is fun for them, and it strengthens reputation and attracts men. Meanwhile, mothers are off doing what they do - strengthening their family and social relationships through chat, gossip, hobbies, etc - it forms a safety net for their family.

Then there are men. Single men chase the single women. This forms a crowd. This crowd attracts married men / fathers and mothers alike (including people like me who are standing around saying 'wtf?'). Further, the crowd attracts social capitalists who leverage the crowd's attention to promote themselves, their business or their cause.

But, the average single female may have 2-7 years of her status as a single woman. Whereas the average mother will have her role for 18yrs+. So, you end up with this crowd mass, in the center is hookup activity. However, the majority of the crowd becomes family-centric and cause-centric security nets. And yea, when you look at this from a distance, its big and boring.

Masses of single-folks 'hooking up' on Facebook is equally if not more boring close-up and from afar than masses of family-centric people.

It's better to say "Masses are boring". Just read the comments at CNN.com or YouTube which mostly read like meaningless chatter.

I totally agree that social interaction quality declines as group size increases - interactions will always approximate the lowest common denominator of a group over time.

However, I was not trying to imply or judge what is boring on facebook. Just trying to point out that the interaction activity around single women is more dynamic and less predictable than the interaction activity around mothers / families, and further that social security blankets are beginning to rule fb, by the numbers. Networks for the purpose of social security, by definition, are risk averse and less dynamic.

That being said, I'd love to see some analytics around unique page views of single women vs the rest of facebook users to see what facebook users on average consider interesting / boring.

I was visiting some friends at a major US university last weekend, a few who are a Djs and party promoters when they said something that struck me. "The freshman aren't really using facebook [to find parties] anymore."

We went on to talk about how there was a very low signal to noise ratio on it nowadays with too many promoters sending to many unwanted messages and how having family on it has changed things as well.

Apprently they're moving more to twitter and tumblr to a certain extent

this does not bode well for facebook

Also I think it was a big mistake to take status updates from the center of the header on profile pages. It let you broadcast more about how you are at a moment vs who in general

The same exponential social forces that drove Facebook to prominence can turn on it surprisingly quickly and cause exponential decay. If anything keeps them up at night, this is it.

I've refused to join Facebook because of an inability to partition my life appropriately. I have at least three personas I don't want to just run together (family, friends, coworkers, probably an online shard as well). If people as a whole realize they can't express themselves freely with their friends because mom is online, that's going to be a big problem for Facebook. This could yet kill them if they continue to choose not to allow fragmentation.

Also, much has been made of how this young generation has no desire for privacy and can't understand why anyone would want it. I've thought for a while that there is still the plausible outcome where instead of never growing a privacy sense and being unprecedentedly open, that they would instead collectively discover the ancient social reasons for privacy the hard way instead. It will never be a single event that makes good copy, but it sounds to me like we may be down this path now, though still in the early phases.

I find myself nodding along with you, then unable to reconcile myself with the reality: that facebook is a high-growth company, and it's unlikely to become the next AOL for another decade.

Perhaps the answer is raganwald's comment below (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2397934): people find use in it, it's just not the same use we found.

It's likely that it's so fast-growing because it's bringing in the outliers, The unfashionable 'late adopters' that most services would kill to have, and to keep.

This doesn't bode well for Facebook because a huge part of their growth strategy was in getting the exclusive college crowd, then growing that circle to the early adopters, then growing THAT circle to everybody else. Even if they never lose their core demographic (which is to say, the students that made facebook popular, which have almost certainly graduated by now) -- if the exclusive college crowd moves to somewhere else, even just for one of FB's core services, it's a very bad sign.

What FB wants, rather, what it needs, is for people to rely on it for everything. If portions of its service become decentralized elsewhere, and heaven help them if they're able to integrate with each other, then they lose the power they currently have, which is in being able to get a pretty clear picture of your social circle from visiting just one site.

They would want to shoot for what you describe, yes. Any company would want to be all things to all people, to relentlessly accumulate users, never lose one. But nobody will achieve that idealized goal. They'll be faced with choices where they can grow their userbase more aggressively at the cost of some fraction of their faithful early adopters.

Losing early adopters never causes immediate loss of growth. If you play your cards right you will make them up manyfold. Neither does their loss cause immediate exposure to competitors. Early-adopters who left apple, or reddit, or google usually scattered to the winds, spreading out over lots of competing services.

Peter Drucker said the goal of a company is to create a customer. Rephrased, the goal of a company to organize a coherent market out of disparate customer needs. I imagine companies as engines that suck up diverse users one end, cause them to behave in a common manner, and emit users out the exhaust, hopefully at a far lower rate. Discarded users still have to be sucked up by a different coherent engine, which is hard.

Let me know if this comment makes absolutely no sense whatsoever :)

It makes sense, but I don't really know if I agree with all of it. Rather, I don't necessarily disagree, because what company wouldn't want everybody on the planet as a customer -- but I think most companies (at least early on) prefer to have a niche, and dominate within that niche.

The less precise your niche is, or the larger your demographic, the harder it is to precisely deliver anything to them. You can't possibly be all things to all people, and once you've expanded beyond a demographic that you can effectively meet the needs of, then you stop being 'kick ass' for any one person, and start being 'okay' for more people.

For services like Facebook, I think this is the death knell of their offering. What they still have, of course, is the zillions of users. So long as they have everybody, it buys them time.

What I was trying to allude to earlier though, is that if the early adopters that got them popular start going elsewhere, then eventually, so will everybody want to be.

The catch though, is that just like nobody is taking on Craigslist head-on, I don't think anybody can take on Facebook head-on. But, just as Twitter is a viable alternative for status updates, if other, really awesome little things start cropping up for other aspects of FB service, they'll eventually start to erode FB's offerings.

The best thing that FB has going for it in defense of that is their platform, which means that likely, much of what might otherwise usurp FaceBook may well end up just integrating with them instead.

So they are ok with making their tweets and posts on tumblr being exposed to public but they are not ok with their parents being on facebook ??

Difference is that Twitter accounts are pseudonymous and deniable, and your parents probably don't know what Tumblr is...

That said, it first became obvious how big Facebook would become when they calmly ignored the protests of those who didn't want to be connected with their younger siblings at high school and thought newsfeeds were intrusive.

I can assure you that at least some parents do know what Tumblr is.

Agreed. It was the status updates (and pictures to a lesser degree) that made Facebook interactive.

""The freshman aren't really using facebook [to find parties] anymore.""

I built this app to learn Google App Engine http://hello-1-world.appspot.com/about and it will be good for people to find hot spots where people at. But I've been unable to find an initial user who would seed the network. The fact that it has no branding and there is no activity and the purpose is not clear are facts against it.

"A trend I have noticed among my friends is the decreasing number of status updates posted to Facebook. Just six months ago my news feed would have been filled with the daily dribblings of my friends. Now there are less than a handful of status updates in my newsfeed, often from the same 5 people."

I wonder if this was an algorithmic change by Facebook in their "Top News" section. I noticed an extremely sharp decline in the number of new stories I see when I log in, starting a couple of months ago. There's plenty in "Most Recent," however, so it's just getting filtered out.

For me personally, it's made Facebook seem much less interesting and decreased my usage. I'm sure they're watching the numbers, though...

Facebook friends are not really friends. There is a huge level of distrust in the community when you can't speak your mind for fear of being fired or tagged in compromising photos.

These are not real concerns I have when I'm among real friends.

One of my colleagues has a very strict rule that he does not become friends with current work colleagues on Facebook or any other social network. Seems like a good idea to me, although there is sometimes a blurry line when you work with some of your good friends. I'm sure having such a rule makes him less concerned about the compromising photos or status postings.

It's odd that Facebook hasn't allowed users to turn off all tagging to the Wall. You can turn off friends posting links to your wall, but not photos. Bad incentivizing.

Most people are shy in front of big audiences... this remains true on Facebook as people accumulate ever larger friend-lists. Of course, they're probably all just as addicted as ever. I'm a 'light' FB user, I've only posted one pic, only been tagged in one, post a status update about once a month, comment about once a week, never sent someone a friend-request, only have 60 or so friends, and even I check the thing 2 or 3 times per day.

True. Ironically, filtering based on who you interact with most frequently has the side effect of hiding from you the true number of people whom you're connected to.

I am aware of the Top News vs. Most Recent - and I still see a general interaction decline. The number of brands friends are liking has gone up, but their actual person to person interactions have gone down.

It's plausible that the two are related. The fewer real interactions people have on the site, the less they'll be active. Automated content fills its space, and soon there's little social engagement.

And than your wall is filled with useless spammy content.

Are you also aware of the "Friends and pages you interact with the most" vs "All of your friends and pages" distinction?

So, what does the future look like?

Will everyone abandon Facebook en masse, just like they did AOL and Myspace? Or did Facebook really win?

Will Google finally do something interesting in the space?

Will any of these open source distributed/federated interoperative social networks catch on? All of them?

I sort of hope for a combination the last two. It doesn't look like any of the big players have an incentive to open up and become interoperable, and it doesn't look like any of the new open/distributed upstarts are getting any sort of real traction. Google's the only big player that has a history of demonstrating a willingness to push open/distributed/interoperable data because an open web is a crawlable web is an advertisable web.

Once the social networking/identity thing is more open and distributed, I imagine networks like Facebook becoming more like a place to go to hang out with certain people and share certain things, with various other places for different contexts and different appropriate activities, and different degrees of privacy, but all working from a single, centralized identity.

What's the advantage of open information in the context of social applications? Excluding of course social networks built on mutual interest, like twitter or quora. With real-world friends, family, contacts, etc., the closed nature of facebook is what makes it attractive to me. And I think that's true for most users. It's probably why there's massive outrage every time they relax their privacy defaults.

Maybe data portability? But data on facebook is portable enough, and even if it weren't, what are you going to import it in? Some hypothetical future rival social network? I imagine for a majority of users, simply viewing a friend's profile to remember an email address, phone number, etc, is enough.

I think privacy is actually a good reason for strong data portability. If users can easily leave your service for another, you have a strong incentive not to violate their privacy expectations. To extrapolate that point out: strong data portability and interoperability encourage a competitive environment.

I think you're conflating "closed" with "private." An open social networking environment can still harbor private (I would argue more private) sharing contexts.

You're absolutely right, I did conflate 'closed' and 'private'.

But what about my second point? You can download your facebook data. Or is it not 'strongly portable' enough, in your opinion?

From what I understand, it's not an easy process and you can't download important stuff, like your social graph (I think you only get plaintext names, not email addresses, etc.)

It's a one click download. OK, actually two clicks, but it's a very clean, unconfusing process. https://www.facebook.com/download/

Not to mention the graph api. They're very good about giving you all the information you as a user might want (photos, links, messages, wall posts) What it doesn't give you is the kind of data that a competitor might want.

You should try it. http://www.facebook.com/download. It's basically a two-click process.

It gives you most of the data you'd be interested in as a user (photos, videos, messages, wall posts). Not so much the data that Google might want, like a easily importable graph. But for everyone else, it's really useful.

I think it is still quite likely that Facebook could implode spectacularly in the same way that Digg did. It would take longer for their company to unwind (due to the huge number of users) but once the momentum is lost other platforms will have a chance to prosper. The (presumed) forthcoming IPO and the events around it will be interesting times for everyone, I think.

I find this unlikely because FB is much more mainstream, pervasive, and locked-in than Digg has ever been.

Honestly, I kinda hope you're right, though.

I understand your point. But I truly believe that it's possible for an entity of any size to collapse.

In fact, I think that it is so rare for any kind of organisation to get so big as to dominate (say) 90% of its market that there has never really been much chance to pass on knowledge about how to handle problems at that extreme scale. It might even make you more likely to fail if you get too big.

Maybe I should wait a few years and then write "The History of the Decline and Fall of Facebook" in the spirit of Gibbon :-)

People left AOL whenthe web grew around it and AOL's relatively sparse content lost its appeal.

Are you implying that that won't or can't happen with Facebook? Isn't that sort of the point of TFA?

The web that knocked AOL's wall down was already there when Facebook started getting big.

The web is as a roaring ocean; AOL and Facebook are as but sandcastles on the shore; waves come in, waves go out, and no sandcastle is forever safe.

I think people will start to see that social networks don't add that much value to their lives, and they'll just stop using them. Maybe they'll meet up with friends for a chat, instead of sitting at home talking to each other online.

Back in the olden times people built personal websites, customized them to their liking, and posted creative things they made, their photography and other hobbies, and writings (which eventually got renamed "blogs"). Some of these websites had interesting private discussion forums that were separate from the rest of the internet. It was a glorious time... and then Blogger, and Facebook, and Twitter came along and normalized everything, leaving only status updates and pictures and useless ramblings.

There must be some sort of law that the internet's signal to noise ratio drops proportionately to the growth of social networks.

There must be some sort of law that the internet's signal to noise ratio drops proportionately to the growth of social networks.

Here it is: "The signal is highly concentrated in the early adopters of every publishing technology."

That is to say, the people most likely to have something interesting to share are the ones busy trying to find new ways to share it. Thus, when the Internet first became available to the masses, the early adopters were people with things to say but no easy way to share their ideas with people interested in what they had to say. So they put up home pages and essays.

Then the masses came on board and businesses catered to them and we got FrontPage and GeoCities and the signal dropped to zero. We can see the same thing in every forum, in Slashdot, in Reddit, and here. Early adopters are invariably chagrined to see the laggards driving the signal to noise down, some leave in search of new media with an opportunity to enjoy the high signal of halcyon days. Eventually the older media have an Eternal September, and the combination of high signal early adopters leaving and a sudden wave of new laggards joining the signal down to nearly zero, and suddenly everyone is dissatisfied.

While not every early adopter has something interesting to say and not every laggard is taciturn, the proportion of writers to readers is higher amongst the early adopters of any communication medium than it is amongst the laggards, which creates the phenomenon you observed.

That is to say, the people most likely to have something interesting to share are the ones busy trying to find new ways to share it.

That can't be entirely right, can it? A medium's early adopters are really the most likely to have interesting things to say? How can the two possibly be correlated? I agree that there's an obvious pattern between signal:noise ratio and community size, but my gut tells me the reason is likely more than "the early adopters were more interesting."

I can't find the source now, but I recall reading an article that posed another explanation: communities start out small, and the members know the rules/mores/norms and abide them. When a newb steps out of line, the graybeard:newb ratio is small enough that it's not hard for the community's graybeards to reinforce the rules with the him. As the community grows, the definition of what's interesting to it gets more vague and distorted, like a drawing on a balloon that's continually inflated. And if it grows quickly, the graybeard:newb ratio drops. Both factors make it harder to enforce the interesting-ness norms.

"A medium's early adopters are really the most likely to have interesting things to say? How can the two possibly be correlated?"

Since you are asking for a possible explanation, and not a provable one:

People with lots of good things to say naturally seek out places where what they say is not drowned out by meaningless noise. This means that whenever a new publishing medium is established, they jump on it in order to say their good things before Zynga figures out how to use it to broadcast pleas for help milking virtual cows or whatever.

As the community grows, the definition of what's interesting to it gets more vague and distorted, like a drawing on a balloon that's continually inflated. And if it grows quickly, the graybeard:newb ratio drops. Both factors make it harder to enforce the interesting-ness norms.

I think this is a version of (or at least, related to) the concept of Eternal September.


I'd rephrase this: "For an audience interested in technology, signal is highly concentrated in the early adopters of any publishing technology"

Or, more generalized: "For any consumer, signal is highly concentrated in the publishers who share your adoption speed of a publishing technology"

The entire point of social networks is that they personalize the information stream that the user sees, making that information more valuable (this raises the SNR). At least that's how I see it.

I guess the ease and ubiquity of Facebook has lowered the barrier of entry to publishing content to the Internet. Consequently the average quality level of content decreases, despite its added value of being personalized.

The s/n ratio of the internet is already abysmal because of spam and other forms of parasitic commerce. Adding 6 billion pages full of baby pictures, Twilight: The Fourth Coming reviews, etc probably raises the bar.

Sounds a lot like Usenet in the late 1980s. Then Earthlink came along and normalized everything, leaving only spam and porn.

I think what made facebook appealing in the beginning was the "post an update, get an immediate reaction" phenomenon. The number of posts was small enough and the number of friendly eyes high enough that the probability of even the smallest discourse was high. Add to that the fact that one's list of "friends" starts relatively small and encompasses a higher ratio of people who are actual friends. Over time, one's list of "friends" expands to the point where a user's feed is comprised of non-relevant information. For me at least, it lessens the desire to contribute content knowing that that content will be diluted in the huge sea of updates. The same holds true for reading my news feed; I don't want to comb through lots of posts to find a few that are interesting.

Note: I write this post from my own experience as a college student. It may very well be different from how others use facebook.

This thread is making me reflect on my 7-8 years of using Facebook.

To be honest, I'm surprised I'm still on it, but I am. It's the best way for me to send media bits to people I like. It's easier than email for me.

However, I'm a sharer, and many people I know aren't. I don't really have a clue why they're on Facebook then (if they are). It does seem kind of dry.

In college, it was awesome because it was a community setting where you could find out about acquaintances (i.e. stalking) in a trusted network setting. It was OPEN within a CLOSED off system. I could see that still being the case to a certain degree in some social groups or large companies.

But the stripping down, deemphasis and normalization of the profile, turning it from a 'face book' into a social news tool was the inflection point for me. Facebook was great when you could surf people, not news. The funny thing is, Facebook was catalyzed tremendously by their decision to go into social news (i.e. news posted by people you know), and it'd be weird to see it causing their downfall (like a huge investment that looks great at first).

I doubt that's going to be the case, as the social graph infiltrates through the internet and 'like' buttons show up on every e-commerce site in innovative ways. I don't think Facebook truly has much to worry about as they're basically becoming the ID gatekeeper to the internet. I just don't think social news is something particularly interesting, and I'd like to see them deemphasize that part of their business. I think they should focus on making the news feed less of a potpourri of news (Twitter, HN, microforums, NY times, CNN, and so on own that already) and try to innovate ways to emphasize microcommunities on Facebook. The groups feature was an attempt, but didn't really strike gold. I'd like to see them try out more things like that.

I could be way off. I suspect Facebook is just losing touch with nerdy people who are more interested in things, not people. It's probably doing well with people who generally like smalltalk.

I think the biggest part of this change in facebook usage is that we all just grew out of this college network and started adding co-workers and all sorts of other mature audience. This then causes you to tread facebook as a different kind of communication tool. I guess you can say the experience on facebook just matured all together and people are using it differently. Everyone is more cautious about the way they come across on the social graph and what they make public.

After all thanks to Zynga we now all got our mothers, relatives and what not as facebook friends. And like the article says, who has time to setup lists?!

I found Facebook useful back when I was single - less creepy than real dating sites, and much better coverage of people from my circles. But even that utility is diminishing, as people appear to do less there.

Of course, I know many people who practically live on Facebook, but I suppose that is mainly due to boring desk jobs instead of actual gossip addiction.

If Facebook starts winding down, it will be interesting to see how all those millions of sites relying on FB for their social features and authentication cope.

With 600 million users you can't just generalize a noticeable trend in your personal account to reflect that of others. If anything, my Facebook feed has been more active than ever.

View a friend's profile and FB will know you show interest in that person, putting that person's stream on a higher rank to show up on your feed. The feed becomes more relevant the more you use it I suppose.

There may be a lot of small talk on Facebook, but for me that normally leads to longer discussions in person.

Site should be back up in a few minutes.

I can't help but wonder if the "Hide" button has sucked all the meaningful engagement out of Facebook. I don't know about anyone else, but I have about 80% of my "friends" hidden. Over the past year, Facebook has pretty much become a ghost town for me compared to a few years ago.

I'm in the same situation, but unhiding friends to recover sense is just not practical, with all the app-spam going around facebook these days.

I might be the only one in here who can't stand viral-app-spam, but in my social circle there's a sharp division between people who can and who can't stand it, and I think this is in part responsible to the huge drop in interaction in facebook.

There are so many updates that I miss from people I care about, and chance upon them much later !

* There doesn't seem to be a way to explicity follow all the updates of a person

* If I manage to get my friends into a group, their updates still don't show up in the group

* The current News Feed algorithm is weighed a little too tightly to the people I interact with often

Hmm .. maybe I should try writing a client with these features ;)

Facebook taught the world what's social networking - now it's time for interest groups and niche SNs. It's just natural progression.

Back in the times of Geocities, everyone's site was unique(ly ugly). Today, everyone's facebook page looks exactly the same. Geez, and you wonder why rate-of-use will probably decline over time?

Facebook et al. will not be the end of connecting with people online. Now that everyone's been pressed into a one-size-fits-all and the lowest common denominator has been found (satisfying your curiosity what your hs buddies are up to, who got fatter last year etc.), the game will start anew for the new shiny thing - connecting people while at the same time bringing out their best sides.

The article makes some very good points, but I would love to make a copy-editing pass over it.

I think the biggest fallacy of all of these articles is that people don't seem to give any thought to the fact that they only see updates from a handful of people. The reason why that is, is because FB has algorithms to figure out who you are talking to most of the time, and basically only shows updates form people who you talk to, or people whose profile you have visited. I deduced this by myself over a year ago, and recently I was watching some interviews with Sean Parker and he was actually talking about this.

So it's just like in real life, the way you have good friends with whom you talk a lot, and just friends you talk to every once in a while, FB does the same thing.

This has happened to every social network that has come before and it will happen again.

Facebook like its predecessors Myspace, Friendster et al., is not the destination but rather the current milestone in the evolution of the Internet, the real Social Network.

"Big and boring"... I thought this was going to be another one of those posts about writing "boring" code instead of being excessively clever, as boring is well tested and boring is easily maintained.

Instead, it's another "I don't like using Facebook" post.


by the end of this year people will realise that there is life outside fb.

Where will they go? I guess that is what I am wondering.

They don't have to go anywhere. Most communication will continue to happen through gossip, as it should.

Facebook is stupid because it has become a social obligation to "friend" people on it, and like you pointed out, way too hard to set up effective privacy measures.

Normal people are scared of public speaking.

Gods, I hope so.

My english professor this semester has this crusade against facebook. There have been very few classes go by where he doesn't connect what we're reading about with how facebook is causing the decline of civilization.

Couldn't agree more with the post

Thank you for reading!

Couldnt see the article the site is down.Nevertheless i think Facebook has become more about ''Likes and Comments Hunting'' and photo Viewing and sooner or later we will get tired of this.There will come a time where being on facebook is such a lame thing to do and is as shame as being caught by your friends viewing Adultfinder.

I am sorry the site was down. I agree, soon being on Facebook will be equal to still being on Friendster

Facebook is not boring but I do think the Fan pages have way too many updates. They get in the way of updates from my friends.

Monetization will always interfere with user experience in a system whose value is amplified by network effects.

I read the fine blog post submitted here (by the author of the blog post). I then posted the link to my Facebook profile, with the question "Does Facebook bore you?" Then I read the comments here on HN. In just that short span of time, three of my friends replied to my question, saying,

1) "Not with friends like mine!"

2) no

3) "Not yet."

I find Facebook interesting, because I take care to put interesting people on my friends list. (I have removed one person from my friends list for only participating in online games with total strangers and never interacting with anyone he actually knows in real life. I have blocked three other persons from my home page feed, but still allow them to comment on things I post, for similar overuse of online games.)

To comment on some of the issues brought up in the interesting comments here, one good use case on Facebook is a group of friends with a defined commonality forming a "private group."

(Again, I try to Google up the page on Facebook's help about creating private groups, and again Facebook has an epic fail of making that link prominent. But here it is,


found after I drilled into Facebook's Help Center a bit. The Help Center page about groups features


is perhaps even more helpful.) I have a THRIVING private group including a whole bunch of friends who are currently or were formerly subscribers to the national email list of a membership organization we have all been part of. The official email lists of the organization have gone increasingly quiet, as everyone moves over to Facebook, where the atmosphere is at once more fun (more light-hearted topics) and more serious (gut-wrenching intimate topics that are easier to share to a specific group of friends than to all subscribers to an email list).

Facebook is also working very well in reconnecting me with old classmates whom I have not seen in more than thirty years but whom I look forward to seeing in a massive multi-class reunions this summer that has mostly been organized on Facebook. That has been very enjoyable.

I have to agree that it's a bit odd that status updates are no longer prominent even on people's own profiles, but I think Facebook has figured out by analysis of user behavior that most Facebook readers are even more interested in links (my favorite thing to post, which brings me a big readership on Facebook and elicits many fun discussions) or photos (some of some of my friends' favorite things to post).

P.S. I have to agree with the comments below that if you want to post on a site without a "house style," Geocities used to have that market covered, and MySpace still does. It does improve usability of Facebook that some of the basic page design decisions are made by a small group of evidently professional designers rather than by the whole population of Facebook users. Profiles pages show individuality by the actual content posted by each Facebook user, and that is good enough for me.

P.P.S. By the time I finished typing this, two more friends had replied to my question:

4) "I agree - with the right friends, how could it be boring?"

5) "I believe it was Samuel Johnson who said, "When a man is tired of Facebook, he is tired of life."

You do realize that the people that responded are a very self-selecting group right?

It would be really cool if Facebook was able to suggest groupings for your friends. They probably have enough data to do a half-decent job of it.

Also, they should make some sort of more visual method to sort people into lists. Maybe like a venn-diagram.

Are you kidding me? Facebook just contributed to toppling a dictatorship in Egypt.

We are still seeing the rippling effects that this form of social interaction brings to people's lives. I don't think that's boring at all.

I have too many friends on Facebook because it is impolite to refuse a friend request. Now I don't feel comfortable sharing things with the wide network of "friends" that I have there.

I'm sure one amongst us will come up with something that brings down fb. no single company will ever be able to grasp the whole social experience.


Facebook initially had many important distinctions from Myspace--exclusivity, better privacy control, and no potential for flashing neon design abortions. The first two are gone now, so I think you're pretty much right.

I do wonder if it will be replaced by another actual social network or if social networking features will be turned into a basic protocol that can be shared and distributed from any number of unrelated non-commercial servers or services.

> exclusivity

It was exactly this that made Facebook great for college kids and drove its initial growth. Facebook was once a quasi-private space, and that was all kinds of fun. Sort of a unique online social experience (and not in the buzzword sense of "social") that was available for a couple years.

Now it's just another AOL.

So invent something better. Don't just complain. OP has taken what is actual innovation and groundswell for granted. Not enough? Then innovate.

It is not the responsibility of the critic to fix problems.

Often, these kinds of articles are met with the "Well YOU build something and then you can talk" responses. This kind of response is an attack on the person making the argument (or at least their qualifications) and not on the argument itself.

It is not the responsibility of the critic to fix problems.

I strongly disagree, obviously, and find it disconcerting that you've gotten upvotes. This is a community of makers, and apparently it's becoming a community of bitchers and whiners. The OP's argument is the equivalent of Beavis and Butthead: "this place used to be cool, but now it sucks." It's useless and unhelpful.

Thinking of joining Jacques in going silent.

This kind of response is an attack on the person

No, this is not argumentum ad hominem. I'm not attacking the person, just suggesting that if she feels that strongly, she she should go build something. Bitching is useless.

The title is sort of inflammatory, but did you read the article? It's an observation about peoples' behavior on Facebook and how it has changed. She's not saying "Facebook is Boring! Down with Facebook!" She's saying "I loved all the status updates! Why are they gone? Where did they go?"

My point exactly. If Facebook is failing to deliver, find a better way. Don't just say "This place sucks! It used to be cool! Now it sucks!"

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