Conventional Web 2.0 wisdom celebrates Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s “we really messed this one up” blog post as a “mea culpa” vindicating the notion that “users are in control.”
Not quite time to pop open the Web 2.0 champagne, however. Zuckerberg’s appeasement of the restive Facebookers reflects old school best customer service practices, but does not signify capitulation to an invincible power of non-paying users.
Zuckerberg acknowledges Facebook fell short in 1) communicating service enhancements to users and 2) enabling user customization of the new services.
When we launched News Feed and Mini-Feed we were trying to provide you with a stream of information about your social world. Instead, we did a bad job of explaining what the new features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them. I'd like to try to correct those errors now.
How is Facebook rectifying its “bad” communications and implementation “errors“? It is responding to user feedback calling for more customization options by tweaking the implementation to enable more customization.
Far from being cowed by its non-paying users, however, Facebook rejoices that the new services actually enhanced users’ ability to voice their opinions:
This may sound silly, but I want to thank all of you who have written in and created groups and protested. Even though I wish I hadn’t made so many of you angry, I am glad we got to hear you. And I am also glad that News Feed highlighted all these groups so people could find them and share their opinions with each other as well.
Zuckerberg is cited by the Washington Post:
Protesters were using the new Facebook feature to publicize their discontent, proving that it was very effective.
Moreover, Zuckerberg has not been deterred in his goal to make Facebook both more useful to users and more attractive to commercial partners:
Although Facebook may make further alterations to the design and operation of the feature, the company has no intentions of eliminating it entirely, he said.
In fact, Facebook is experimenting with using a similar feature to deliver news from The Washington Post, Newsweek and online magazine Slate to members as part of a new business relationship with The Washington Post Co., which owns all three publications. Facebook hopes to expand the news experiment.
‘We're making changes because we feel it's important to react to this quickly. But we think it's a good product, and we're not taking it down.’
Facebook is “not taking it down” because it has been on a commercial tear of late to make its service more attractive to prospective business partners and advertisers.
For details on its recent business development deals see:
Facebook may finesse its moves going forward, but its determination to make changes to its services in order to better monetize its free-to-users site will, apparently, not be deterred.
What power does a Facebook user have over the free-to-use site? The threat of packing up a personal profile and moving to a different free Web 2.0 social networking service.
Given the “maturity” of the market penetration of Facebook, however, an exodus seems unlikely due to several hurdles:
- Entrenched scale of existing network
- Social capital invested in service
- School specific relationship
- Inability to move entire personal network
- Interia and resistance to effort required…
Web 2.0 non-paying “users are in control”? No more, and undoubtedly less, than old school paying customers.