Seems like Facebook has been on a redesign binge lately and with every iteration, you can hear the increasing sound of users who are unhappy with the results. Last month, after Facebook’s redesigned Terms of Service debacle, Zuckerberg promised to be much more “democratic” about future changes. Of course that was last month and based on the track record, it’s just about time for an other customer “disruption”. In his latest move, following a failed attempt at acquiring Twitter, CEO Mark Zuckerberg decided to give Facebook users a very twitter-like, steady stream of updates. The problem is that the change is almost universally disliked, and that includes Facebook employees. Valleywag recently reported on the story based on an insider tip:
Zuckerberg sent an email to Facebook staff reacting to criticism of the changes: “He said something like ‘the most disruptive companies don’t listen to their customers.'” Another tipster who has seen the email says Zuckerberg implied that companies were “stupid” for “listening to their customers.”
There are only alleged statements, but if that’s a part of Facebook’s longterm strategy, then I think young Mr. Zuckerberg may face some problems down the road. Perhaps this thinking comes from the 24 year old’s lack of business experience . Maybe he feels that the people who place advertising on the site are the only “customers” he needs to listen to. Either way, I can think of no competitive business which has been successful in the long run without listening to its customers. If people stop liking your product, they will look for alternatives in the marketplace (just ask MySpace). When they start leaving, so will your advertisers. There’s probably a couple of college students sitting in a dorm room right now dreaming up the Facebook-killer.
Update: Robert Scoble has an interesting take on this over at Scoblizer. He makes a case in favor of Facebook ignoring the complaints in the interest of achieving a longer term objective. He says people will complain but they won’t leave. Perhaps not at this point. Too many people are joining facebook as their first foray into social media and are invested there. I would compare their position to where Twitter was when the Fail Whale was a common occurence. People didn’t leave because of the value and the investment there. Still, I think Scoble and I are looking at this from two very different perspectives. Perhaps Facebook is like mobile carriers. It’s market position allows them to grow despite doing things that customers dont like. Most competitive businesses cannot operate like that. Don’t use Facebook as your model.
What do you think?