Advertisers won't be the only ones griping about Facebook throwing its considerable weight around under the guise of improved user experiences.
According to TechCrunch, Facebook app users will no longer be able to do direct messaging within the flagship app itself. Europeans were being notified of a change in the iOS and Android app that would move all of their messaging tasks to the stand-alone Facebook Messenger app. The report says that all users eventually will get similar notices and be migrated to a dual-app approach.
This seems a bit daft on the face of it. One would assume Facebook wants to unify and streamline the communications experience. Despite complaints that the core Facebook app is cluttered (which it is), the idea of kicking a user out of the news feed and into another app in order to converse directly with someone in their FB contact pool is a weird imposition.
Facebook makes the usual claim, that messaging is more efficient and pleasant to the user in the dedicated app. TechCrunch cites a conversation with Mark Zuckerberg months ago, where he discussed the problem of messaging being "a second class thing inside the Facebook app." The follow up remark is even more revealing. "So we would rather have people using a more focused experience for that."
Gee -- anything we can do to please you, Mark.
These guys just make friends everywhere they go, don’t they?
Advertisers, of course, are pissed at Zuck and co. because they feel the shifting algorithms for organic newsfeed placements are forcing them into more paid media. There is a lot of “bait and switch” talk out there, especially after years of being encouraged to growth their follower base and becoming a “friend” to customers here. Pivotal’s analyst Brian Wieser this morning suggested in a research note this morning that agencies may protesteth too much on this. “Complaints by some advertisers and agencies regarding Facebook’s diminishing organic reach have sounded to us like the same complaints we have always heard about network television advertising. Ironically, such complaints are more of a mark of how dependent on Facebook these brands have become, just as large brands are still dependent on traditional TV.”
Which is still not addressing the overall perception of Facebook as an increasingly arrogant entity whose former focus on user experience is a quaint memory. Personally, I have always found its capricious redrawing of the privacy policies, evolving nomenclature and general ugly design sense off-putting. It still feels like an environment built by and for engineers, and run with all of the sensitivity for its guests as, well, a clique of poorly socialized nerds who think they are hosting a cool party.
I don’t subscribe to the idea that Facebook is at risk in the same way predecessors Friendster and MySpace once were. I think historically we are beyond that point and FB emerged with uncontestable throw weight. But increasingly it feels like just that -- throw weight. Aside from its acquisitions of innovations, there is no sense the company itself is on consumers’ side and developing things for their pleasure and delight. The risk is not that the company goes away so much as it just becomes a lot less interesting to users, perhaps eventually to advertisers, and maintains position through scale if nothing else.
Sounds a lot like another Yahoo.
UPDATED: the original post was edited to remove the inaccurate suggestion that Pivotal's Wieser was recommending advertisers invest more budget in Facebook. that has been removed.