I didn’t join Myspace early enough to be able to write an in-depth discussion of how it started and how it went wrong, but I’m pretty sure it went pretty wrong pretty early on. The whole idea of letting people fully customize the look/layout/music/apps/scripts/flashingshinythings of their site was doomed to failure. Non-technical people will, at all times, botch up technical things, and the fault for that is on the shortsightedness of the technical people who allow them to “easily” customize their stuff.
I’m not calling Myspace a failure in the business sense of the word, in the exact opposite way I’d call Betamax or HD-DVD a failure. Betamax/HD-DVD was technologically sound, and failed for (a number of reason, including) business reasons. Myspace is a technical and visual abomination, and did well from a business perspective. McDonald’s success in business doesn’t make for a great hamburger.
But, I digress. Myspace’s early-on choices to be become a playground for garish social networking design, including confusing/poorly implemented groups, discussion boards, and later additions to compete with Facebook (chat, etc) do not seem to have influenced Facebook early on.
Facebook started simple. That’s why I liked it. There was a lot of excitement when my college got access to Facebook. It was a bit exclusive…you had to be a college student to join. It kept it “classier” and more elite than Myspace, we felt. Interface was clean and not-garish. You couldn’t customize it, so people couldn’t botch it up. It was clear in its purpose; a social networking site. You were friends with people who WERE your friends, you could contact your friends publicly or privately, and get since you were only friends with people you were actually friends with, you could find people’s email, phone number, address, etc etc. Simple. Fresh. Nice.
Changes crept in over the years. Numerous layout redesigns. Fancy new web technologies. The biggest hullabaloo came about when the News Feed was added, I would say. Suddenly, you didn’t go pull information from someone you wanted to know about…it was pushed to YOU, by default. Suddenly, everyone knew who broke up with who, and who everyone’s new friends were. Like everything, after a time, the anger subsided. More networks were opened, and soon you could join by company…by location…by simply having a face. Advertising features were added. Apps were added. A social network became a social waste of time.
Thankfully, we can’t (through Facebook’s design) alter the colors or layout in dramatic ways. However, it is no longer a complement to have friends. It’s not a reference for the real-life friends like it used to be, or even a mild amusement simply from joining groups with like-minded people. Now, the dominant force on Facebook is a sub-goal…applications and advertising.
On sign in, you are (as always since implementation), assailed with the News Feed. The new hotness is algorithms, determining which friends are your besties, and displaying their updates above other people’s updates. You get a friendly nudge to reconnect with an old friend, or are presented with someone Facebook’s magicks thinks you may already be friends with. Real-life happenings like running into an old friend in a grocery store are simulated by Facebook telling you who you ran into in the world wide interweb. Facebook doesn’t REALLY replace real life…you still run into people in the grocery store…but it abstracts real life paradigms and brings them into the interwebs.
What’s that? Join Mafia Wars? Farmville? Superpoke? Sure! I mean, no thanks. Applications are annoying. They have no place in Facebook’s original layout and way of doing things. What happened to keeping it simple, stupid? Not enough money in doing that? Photos and videos being posted to walls…fine, that’s an extension of real life. Applications and Facebook games are not, and also, they are corrupting they children. Yeah, I played that card.
I’m tired of it. I want my simple social networking site back. I want things to stop feeling like they need to ADD FEATURES. These added features are designed to draw you in, so of course people will use them if they are added…but they harm the beautiful simplicity.
I suppose I’m just getting old. I want them to get off my social networking lawn.
And now, from Google…