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.
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".
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 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!
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.
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.
Here's the picture
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.
Edit:fixing phone-induced typos.
In other words, Facebook caused Facebook's problems, not Wall Street.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So I made a fake account to like their page. If HR got a hold of my real account and Facebook turned off my privacy settings, I might not have been hired.
How is that solved? By making more fake accounts.
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.
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?
The problem there is that a person trying hard to keep personas separate can do so without Facebook being able to track (I assume they have to be more specific than just matching by IP address).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
Wasn't worth keeping it around after that.
It's used purely for logging into Spotify, as there is no other way to get a Spotify account.
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.
That's how Facebook is harmed by this.
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)
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?
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.
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.
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 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!
I recently opened up an account for the sole purpose of being able to get into their API docs and haven't been back since. Am I a fake user?
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".
So, there is a need for a new facebook and G+ is not the answer. I dare to say something like pinterest, with a river of short messages and pictures, but highly visual, will replace FB.
No ads, no apps, no likes, no stupidity in the name of profits, no privacy whoring.
That's the new facebook.
I won't use a service like that, like I don't use pinterest, but that is exactly what will take FB's place in the future.
My personal digg, shared with family and friends.
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.
My head hurts when I think that 82,999,999 more of these accounts exist.
Not going to be a victim of their tracking nonsense.
I have a fake account that I use just to like random bullshit and to also use to sign into random stuff. It's kinda like having an email account you use to send you spam too.
Besides, the more accounts they can report as active, the more "reach" they can sell to advertisers, and the higher the prices advertisers have to pay for that space.
Sure they can fake their reports, but they do know quite well how many active users they have.
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.
But if 1 out of 20 "fake" accounts that are active are closed down by mistake, that's millions of pissed off customers and customer support emails. In other words, a massive headache.
That's a problem.