Been using Facebook every day since 2007. Recently though I've noticed my visits to the site drop to maybe once or twice per day, whereas at its peak I was checking it multiple times per hour.
I think in their desire to work out what exactly makes them money, they've changed the way you're supposed to use the site. Where I used to see a news feed full of (mostly mundane but still interesting) status updates and photos from my friends, I'm increasingly bombarded with Shares, memes, comics, and pictures that would have been derided as old on 4chan back in 2006.
Now we're hearing about "fake users" - not the fault of the company themselves, I'm sure - and how FB is now just a place where tech marketing people see imagined riches. And in the process, they've ruined the site for the rest of us. The less pleasant the website experience, the less people will want to use it. Before long it'll just be dummy accounts and bots on the site.
Barring a major change of attitude and user experience, I would be surprised if I'm still using the site this time next year.
My massive decline in use is directly correlated to how annoying they've made it to use.
Eg: You can't have your feed always sort by "Most Recent", it keeps defaulting to "Top Stories", keeping old/stagnant stories at the top of my feed just because they got a few comments, while not showing me the new stuff.
Also, the sheer amount of crap they shove in your face now. "<friend name> Likes TOYOTA!" then a big post by Toyota shoved front and center of my feed, all because that friend Liked that page a few months back.
Also, the annoying way that you can't ignore just a certain type of post from friends (bar a few). You can set them to "Important Updates Only" but then you miss lots of posts you might find interesting. I want to ignore their Likes of memes/pictures but still get their posts of their own content, etc.
There's lots more reasons, but they've basically made the site a pain in the ass to use, so I find myself back to reading sites via RSS and chatting to people directly on Google Talk when I need some "social".
-You can set them to "Important Updates Only" but then you miss lots of posts you might find interesting. I want to ignore their Likes of memes/pictures but still get their posts of their own content, etc.
There is actually a setting for this - You need to "Unsubscribe from comments and likes by ___"
I worked vigilantly at this over a few weeks and eventually my feed went back to what it used to look like circa 2008. Then, sadly, a few weeks ago, they were all back one day out of the blue. Since then, the unsubscribe functionality has been straight-up broken.
It was pretty annoying, not gonna lie, but weeks may have been a bit of a stretch - I have about 450 friends and I'd say after a couple days of 'vigilance' I was 90% of the way there, but there were stragglers that showed up for a while after that. It wasn't until everything reverted and started showing up again that it truly felt like a nightmare.
Their mobile iOS application is absolutely the worst application I have ever used on iOS.
It just doesn't work far too often (it took 2 months for notifications to randomly start working on my new iPhone 4S, but activating them can't load the new content half the time or just sits there loading forever; I have no network issues with any other iOS applications) and irritates me too much (e.g. I keep getting stories from pages I hid on the desktop site, you can't manage photos properly like on the desktop site, etc.).
I've reverted to using the desktop site under mobile Safari but I'm dying for somebody to replace Facebook simply with something of higher quality - I don't mind the ads or tracking and I genuinely find it a useful site, it's just of such poor quality it's annoying!
This is my primary gripe with facebook. You'd think that they'd be able to develop a decent mobile app, being as large as it is.
The google+ app works way way way better. So smooth and everything loads quickly as it should. Hell, even the tumblr app I use works better than the facebook one.
Their iPhone app used to work really well. Then, they tried to do some crazy cross platform shenanigans to keep the mobile website, iPhone, and Android versions on the same general codebase. That's when things really suffered and I've read articles saying they're ditching the cross platform stuff and going back to native. We'll see.
The cynic in me assumes since they have no mobile monetization story that I have seen their desire to spend time on mobile clients is low. I find some humor in a firm that trots out how they only hire the best of the best of the best can't field an even half-way decent mobile app.
I had heard a couple of months ago that Facebook doesn't want to improve the native apps and instead Google and Apple to improve the html5 support in their respective browsers. Facebook wants to have a uniform experience across platforms and html5 site would be best way to achieve that. This explains why their apps are not customized as per the Android/iOS standards. They even formed a group to discuss the state of mobile browsers and Google and Apple have been ignoring it.
I already stopped using it a couple of months ago for a couple of reasons. Most notably privacy concerns upon realizing that nothing ever gets lost there. Yeah I know, as a tech person I should have known that from the start. Well, Facebook ended up with about a year and a half of my life, well documented online and stored deeply inside their database and their backups.
But as you pointed out, Facebook becomes less appealing to it's users for a variety of reasons that - I think - are all rooted in the fact that it doesn't really seem to care about what the user wants Facebook to do. That's never a good thing.
Somehow it gives the impression that FB is beginning to openly admit that users are not their customers but their product.
I've had a similar experience and similar thoughts. I'm a strong believer in free markets, etc, but sometimes I don't understand the unending need for growth (i.e. why is it considered a bad thing that Facebook is so large that it doesn't have much room for growth?) If you're large and profitable, what's wrong with that? It often seems like the relentless pursuit for growth leads to short-term decisions to increase profits that have long-term consequences of reduced customer satisfaction and thus lost profits.
I think its a fundamental flaw of the public company ecosystem. Management is driven to have a very short-term, myopic view of shareholder value (i.e. stock price quarter to quarter). This was made much worse by the rise in profile of analysts in the late 90's tech boom with increased focus on short term earnings guidance. Perhaps eventually Zuckerberg will be replaced by a more market-savvy CEO. Also being public will force a giant set of obligations and priorities that has nothing to do with their offerings (shareholder proxies, disclosure, class action derivative suits, SOX compliance, investor relations) and will suck huge resources.
Being public will make FB a poorer company and service.
As a side note, I love how reporters of newly public companies quote risk factors from a 10-k and present them as some significant revelation of a skeleton in the closet. Risk factors are required disclosure and attorneys stuff them with horrible sounding proclamations that often are really just stating the obvious when you really read them. They are cheap insurance for the public company - not sure anyone declines to buy a stock based on risk factors but the company can say "I told you" in the event of certain shareholder suits.
I'm reminding of a picture of a board meeting at NeXT, and I vaguely recall Warren Buffet being mentioned, as either on the board, or giving Jobs advise. And one of Buffet's stories about getting turned onto stock trading by a guy at another firm telling him that the market in the short term is a voting machine, but in the long term, it's a weighing machine. You want to guess the right weight.
But without those public markets, Facebook would never have gotten anywhere close to where they are today because there would have been no major investments.
Instead, we would likely have multiple, smaller networks that we have to pay for because they wouldn't be able to bootstrap to a level that advertising can cover. That would not necessarily be a worse world.
You're questioning the fundamental philosophy ow Wall Street (I almost wrote capitalism instead but I don't know if that's true). Solvency is not enough to drive stock prices because the price of a stock is a bet on the future value of the company, not the present value. I don't like it either...
It's not really about "like" or "not like" but fundamental economics and mathematics: things that grow behave differently then things that don't, and are worth more. Suppose FB found a way to consistently make 1B a year, give it to the investors, and only grow as much as inflation. Then the valuation would settle on something like 10-15 billion (plus however much cash it has on hand at that time). And a solid part of the market will love it as a long-term investment and tout its value. On the other hand, to value it at 50 billion you have to assume that its earnings will at least quintuple over time, so good luck to them.
You can't call this a Wall Street philosophy; Facebook was trying to grow massively before they were public. In fact, that's where the growth was happening. At any point in time they could have decided to remain where they were, with the money they were making to pay the bills, and stayed private. They didn't. Instead, Facebook told us that they were going to, essentially, grow the company to 5 or 6 times the current state.
In other words, Facebook caused Facebook's problems, not Wall Street.
But the most important factor that is considered during the IPO dog and pony show is projected growth. Nascent companies need at least double digit growth, preferably triple digit. And every quarter, when public companies announce their earnings, year-over-year, the stock price is impacted as much by revenue growth as it is by earnings/share. Ignoring high-frequency trades, the two main philosophies of trading on public exchanges are value investing (Warren Buffet) and growth investing. Facebook caused Facebook's problems in hopes of maximizing its IPO.
It's part of the tradeoff of being investment-funded. Investors offer you money based on an estimate of the future value of your company. When you take the money, you now have to get the company to at least that value for them to be able to make money on their investment by selling their stake. If you can't make that happen, the investors will be very unhappy with you, possibly up to the point of using their ownership stake (or joining with other dissatisfied stakeholders) to have you tossed out and replaced with a "better" manager in order to "save the company."
In other words, "large and profitable" is enough if you're organically funded, but if you're investment-backed you have to not just be profitable, but at least as profitable as your investors predicted you would be.
In Facebook's case, those predictions could be quite large. On the pre-IPO end of things, Goldman Sachs' 2011 investment in FB, for instance, was premised on a $50 billion valuation (http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/01/02/goldman-invests-in-fa...) of the company. Depending on whose numbers you believe for the total number of FB shares outstanding (see http://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-shares-outstanding-2...), at $20/share their current total value is somewhere between ~$40 billion and ~$55 billion. The high end of that estimate is north of Goldman's valuation, but the stock won't have to fall much farther for Goldman to get nervous.
Similarly, when the company goes public, now you have "the markets" to deal with as investors as well. Just like VCs, public investors buy into a stock at a certain level because they believe that level represents a value less than the company will eventually be worth. And also like VCs, if your management makes that bet fail, they can and will organize to remove you, or at least make your life difficult with an activist board or other oversight mechanism. When Facebook opened for public trading, the market estimated its value at around $104 billion (http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/05/17/facebook-raises-16-bi...) If you bought in at that price, your investment today would only be worth a little more than half of what you paid for it. That doesn't make for happy investors.
Investors want to see a return on their investment, and they prefer to see it today rather than tomorrow. Corporate managers who want to stay corporate managers do everything they can to deliver it, and sooner rather than later. Hence the focus on short-term metrics like quarterly profits over long-term sustainability.
"...investors will be very unhappy with you, possibly up to the point of using their ownership stake (or joining with other dissatisfied stakeholders) to have you tossed out and replaced with a "better" manager in order to "save the company."
You need to add "if they can". One of the fantastic things of Zuck is... he accepted the money but gave himself 51% of the company. So investors are f*cked and can't do anything.
That someone could invest under those terms is beyond my understanding, but they did. Greed is going to make people loose a lot of money.
There was also a statistic about the percentage of people who open facebook for their dogs. I wonder if dog and stalker accounts are in that fake count, or if they do count as active as they generate puppy treat ad revenue.
I wonder if Facebook actually analyses the uploaded content to determine its meaning. So if you did start to hide more and more comics whether it would be able to automatically do that irrespective of which friend uploaded it.
That said it is a bit strange that you would seek to blame Facebook when clearly it is a problem with your friends. I for example never receive any 4chan content.
Worth noting that not all these "fakes" are bad, or even inactive or less active.
For example, most performers on the Burlesque scene have accounts specifically for their Burlesque personas, with names like "Kitty Cupcake" or "Tabitha Taboo" and the like. These are obviously not their real names, but a consequence of the fact that Burlesque performers don't want the offline attention on their personal or professional lives outside the performing scene, and that it is standard on that scene to have an alternate identity, in the real world, who is the Burlesque artist.
The two identities are cleanly separated in real life as well as online, and they tend to use Facebook online to network with each other, get gigs, post photos, accrue fans, and so on. I know several such artists who can't be bothered to update their personal Facebook profile much, but are very active Facebook users under their Burlesque pseudonym, with many friends/fans/connections.
To consider these accounts "fake" seems, to me, like a mistake. These are very legitimate use of a social networking platform. It would be a mistake for Facebook to target such accounts and close them down. They would generate immense bad will amongst an increasingly influential community of artists.
>"These are very legitimate use of a social networking platform."
I have many friends (not strippers, unfortunately) who are active on the site with completely fraudulent personal information.
The problem isn't that the accounts are inactive. The problem is that businesses are buying ad-space based on the data produced by these "fake" accounts. When my 30 year-old female friends from Canada are generating data as 65 year old, married men from Wisconsin, someone trying to advertise to those men is going to get a raw deal.
>"It would be a mistake for Facebook to target such accounts and close them down."
Facebook won't close them down, both for the reasons you mention (these are real, active users) as well the fact that it's important for them to be able to boast about user figures. If the published number is 83MM, my bet is the reality is higher.
My ex-girlfriend used a second Facebook profile to earn rewards in the *ville games (or something, I have no idea how those games work). Truly fake secondary accounts like that are probably quite common given the popularity of those games. All of this just demonstrates that using "monthly active users" as a metric is meaningless and Facebook need better and more well thought out metrics.
This is a huge problem I've harped on before, that will get worse in the future. We've all seen Zynga get buried the past few weeks; what happens when large flows of people stop playing these games? It's much harder for the people still playing to achieve some of the "Ask 10 friends!" objectives that are so prevalent.
This is very common on the Zynga *ville game scene. There are massive rewards for sharing (ie. spamming) your friends and having them click links. So it's better to spam yourself with two or more fake accounts to get those rewards.
Good point. I also know for a fact that a lot of underground (and not-so-underground) musicians use a standard Profile for their Facebook presence instead of a Page, as well as a Profile for their real identity.
Is this using the system wrong? Yes. Are they getting the full benefits of Facebook when managing their online fanbase? No. Do they care? Nope.
Also worth noting that this phenomenon exists everywhere.
For example, the standards for Nielsen ratings used for (much more expensive) TV advertising are pretty lame. If you're in the same room as a powered-on television, you're considered a member of the audience.
My other question would be... does it matter? Wouldn't the ability to target burlesque folks (who are real people, just not real names in this example) with laser-like precision be more valuable than trolling for real burlesque aficionados amongst the general population?
Re: Matching IP address - given the prevalence of NAT, in which several thousand users will be associated with a single IP address - you can't rely on that.
Cookies, on the other hand, or, browser-fingerprint-matching, probably can be used to identify these shill accounts. I wonder if Facebook knows how many of it's accounts are fake, or if they actively avoid looking into that information.
Then again, while it is common for us 'computer folk' to have more than 1 computer, a lot of households have just 1 shared by many people. My sister's family has 1 shared computer with 3 Facebook users (soon to be 4 in a year or two).
After being a full time-500+friend user of Facebook since the days when you required your university account to sign up, I finally got around to deleting my account on Facebook. Moved my close family, including my five year old niece, and my six "actual" friends over to Path (well, five of six. #6 doesn't have a smart phone, ironic that my five year old niece does (her father's old 3GS))
I realized one of the nice things about Path is - not sticky at all. No extended timelines, or history that you typically see. 99% of the time you are interested in the last five or six updates only. What this means, is that moving off of Path will be trivial once the eventual commercialization pollutes what is currently a great user experience. (No Ads, No Distractions)
Great for us, not so great for Path, I guess.
Oh, and the fact that I spend a grand total of 5 minutes a day on Path (Less time than I've spent writing this post) - is also appreciated.
So - Path has a nice feature that lets you post pictures _through_ to Facebook, so for my friends who love Facebook, they can continue to post to Facebook through path. For my friends who have smart phones, but don't like social network, but like smart phones - straight forward - we finally have a reasonably private place for us to share stuff.
I'm not trying to convince more than half a dozen people to move though - so, don't really need the same uptake as Facebook.
I think calling them "fake" users is incorrect and misleading. The majority, as the article states, are real people with two or more accounts.
Two accounts represents an easy way to separate your personal and professional lives. Instead of fretting over the privacy settings of each picture, setting up lists, using the complicated and changing processes for managing privacy on FB, the "easy" way is to create two separate personas. And there is nothing wrong with this.
Performers needed to do this, since Facebook "Pages" and "subscribing without friending" are relatively new. And plenty of people who feel the need to be Facebook friends with people from work who don't want them seeing their personal lives and high school photos. And people hiding from ex-husbands and stalkers and other privacy-aware people who want to be on FB, publically findable, but keep a lot of stuff truly hidden.
There are a lot of people who value their privacy and doesn't provide real birthdays (Jan 1 1900), real pictures, real interests and likes, announce who their relatives are, and relationship statuses... are they fake?
The system has to account for people who need two accounts or incomplete accounts. I don't see how this harms Facebook in any way, or why the BBC needs to portray this as if there's a massive problem.
Spam accounts and bots... that's another thing entirely.
When an advertiser buys a Facebook ad, he is able to narrow down the target audience based on demographic information. Facebook then tells the advertiser the "reach" of that ad. So, if I want to advertise to Males between the ages of 18 and 24, from the UK, who like Ford, Facebook will tell me how many people my ad can reach. That's what you pay for. As an advertiser I will have historical advertising figures to calculate the ROI on this ad.
But what happens when many of the accounts I'm "reaching" aren't really male, aren't really between the ages of 18 and 24, aren't really from the UK and are owned by people who don't really like Ford? My ROI is skewed. I'm wasting money.
It bears repeating: as a Facebook user, you are not the customer. The advertiser is the customer. Users are not harmed by fake accounts, but advertisers are. If your cat Fluffy has an account, and is listed as a male, someone, somewhere is paying to advertise to him. Same goes for Bobone, Bobtwo, Bobthree and all the other accounts you've created to "add friends" in Farmville.
I would counter that with "it should be priced in". If Facebook really could deliver you 100% of your target demographic, the price should be X. If in reality, only 90% are in your target demo, then the price should be 90% less. You aren't harmed unless it's not priced in.
I subscribe to the local newspaper in my hometown, which is 500 miles away. Should the guy buying ads selling cords of firewood be pissed off because my subscription is not the norm? (a local resident in this case)
You say "they" like this is some outside entity. It isn't. It's me, and others on these forums. And I can't really accept ambiguity.
If Facebook tells me I'm reaching 1,000,000 people, I better be reaching 1,000,000 people. If that number is really 930,000, and Facebook knows that the number is 930,000, they better be damn sure to tell me so I can calculate the correct ad-spend. As an advertiser, this figure shouldn't be ambiguous. That's kind of ridiculous.
But Facebook is in a catch-22: if they do tell me that figure, it's going to result in lower spends (and thus lower revenues) because their value comes from the massive audience. Remember, this started as "There is no fake account problem". Now it's, "Almost 10% of our accounts are fake". How big is the problem?
If you have an expectation that there will be little or no variance in a population of 1,000,000 people your expectations are not realistic. If you bought a billboard, would you get angry if a car drove past with a sleeping passenger?
Ambiguity is a given -- is Facebook defrauding you if I say I live in Manhattan, but for 3 months I'm at my summer home in Lake George, NY, 200 miles away? You probably wouldn't be happy if you were a summer venue in Manhattan paying to reach people like me.
That isn't fraud. As an advertiser, you need to do your own homework and adjust the relative effectiveness of Facebook vs. other mediums.
>"If you bought a billboard, would you get angry if a car drove past with a sleeping passenger?"
I can calculate, with precision, the traffic that drives by that sign every day.
>"As an advertiser, you need to do your own homework and adjust the relative effectiveness of Facebook vs. other mediums."
Yeah, I do my homework and decide that I'm not going to advertise with Facebook anymore, because I can't determine whether my ads are reaching the audience that I've balanced my spend around. That's what is happening. Right now.
You initially stated: "I don't see how this harms Facebook in any way". I'm explainly how Facebook is affected. Yes, I agree that advertisers will have to compensate. They are. But returns will be squeezed and that compensation will be downward. That hurts Facebook.
I did an experiment a few years ago where I set up a profile for someone who supposedly went to my university. His pictures were pulled from the profile of a male model, the rest was all made up. I went through every profile I could get and sent friend requests. I actually hit the 5000 friends limit. Usually I would send a message saying "hey we met at X party last night!" if I could find that information on their public profile. Many of the people "remembered" that. The account still gets people wishing him happy birthday.
The funny thing is that I NEVER asked anyone from my fish account and he now has friends from all over the world, while his name is "My fish Ploup" in French.
About your fake account and its birthday wishes, An experiment could be to put a erroneous birthday date. I guess that day you can get a lot of wishes, even from close friends. We are just lazy I guess.
I tried that experiment, and the first couple of years it was about 50/50, but most recently almost everyone who posted did so on the FB birthday date. I think theyv'e come to rely on the Facebook reminders.
It was also interesting to see the cognitive dissonance from some posts: "I'm pretty sure it was your birthday next week, but Facebook says its this week, so Happy Birthday".
Of my friends who are friends but not best friends, I only know one of their birthdays. I only know that because her Xbox Live gamertag has her birth month and day in it (and she was born one year and one month before me, kind of interesting I guess).
Birthdays are a thing that are hard to remember. People used to mark them down on a calendar or just wait for the person to remind them. Both of those functions have been replaced with Facebook now.
That's actually what got me to close my FB account. I was tired of getting emailed birthday spam because FB knew my birthday, so I changed it to April 1st and forgot about it. This April, I got about 10 or 20 'Happy Birthday!'s before I posted saying "It's not actually my birthday, April Fool's!" ... and then people kept posting happy birthday without noticing.
There are a lot of people offering 1000 Facebook page likes for just $5 on websites like Fiverr. I've seen profiles that have had no status updates but has 5k pages liked. There is a LOT of social media spam on Facebook
From the submitted article: "User-misclassified accounts amounted to 2.4% - including personal profiles for businesses or pets"
The dog owned by my niece in Taiwan has been on Facebook for more than a year. (I haven't bothered to friend the dog, but I keep up with my niece's news via Facebook.)
"Duplicate profiles - belonging to already registered users - made up 4.8% of its membership figure."
I have plenty of American friends (mostly married women with children) who use pseudonyms, and plenty of those have more than one Facebook account to distinguish personal friends from work colleagues.
"Last month, the BBC's technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones set up a fake company called VirtualBagel to investigate allegations of fake 'likes'."
The BBC investigation confirms what most of us regular Facebook users know from personal experience. A lot of what looks like user engagement on Facebook is just faking or fooling around, not something on which to build an estimate of future monetization of Facebook. I'm still not seeing how Facebook can do any better than AOL did at increasing monetization without driving down the satisfaction of users.
I wonder how many of these fake accounts are "test" accounts from before the time that Facebook introduced official test accounts? Or even from developers unaware of the proper test accounts that can be used.
I think I had three or four accounts set up years ago to test various bits of functionality, such as sending invites and status updates. The introduction of proper test accounts was a godsend!
Same here. I needed to work with their API, so I made a fake account to make some test and to access the documentation.
I have no intention of having my own facebook account, much less to have it full of debuging messages. If I created a real account, it would only annoy my real friend with messages such as "Test 1" and "sadsadasd".
I have not used my Twitter account for over two years, yet it gathers about 3-4 new followers a week so there's a significant amount of pointless activity created by automated processes that just follow people based on keywords - or maybe there's a lot of people who like my extended period of thoughful silence.
Facebook have to admit they have fake accounts because it would defy credulity to suggest otherwise. They also have to vastly understate the number otherwise their advertisers would sue or flee in droves.
So the only question is to what degree they are lying. I would suggest that from an advertiser's perspective the real number of fake accounts is at least 25%, probably much higher.
Facebook wishes it "only" has 83 million "fake" users. I used to run a very popular forum and more than 80% of the registered accounts were nothing more than spam or troll accounts. Let's give FB the benefit of the doubt and say that they only have 15%.
on http://getairmail.com (shameless plug) the facebook and twitter email servers are very popular when looking at incoming mail domains. Some accounts create dozens of fake accounts in a single session.
I have 2 fake account and a real account. The fakes are used for testing. I believe the 83Million number is understated and that should be at least double. I know of 3 separate individuals that have multiple accounts. One personal and one for business.
Active users are probably the key to identifying fake and inactive users. There are likely to be patterns of use on Facebook from active users which apply themselves irrespective of whether a given user is a power user, casual user, etc. Adding friends, sending messages, checking other people's walls, having other people check their wall.
Anyone who doesn't conform to this pattern to within about 10% either side (not enough use / too much use) is probably a fake or spam account.
I think some of these can be explained as hacked accounts. I've had more than one friend who got their accounts hacked and FB wouldn't do anything to reset their password or give them back control. They just simply created another account and just forgot about the old account.