I really like Facebook. It’s a great website for connecting with friends and sharing pictures and stories. As a simple unobtrusive “information pull” site it allows many non-technical people to have a presence on the web. Twitter is not for the masses and blogging is a whole different ball game. And don’t forget that Facebook is free!
However, here are the seven things I would change about Facebook.
1. Remind users why they fell in love with Facebook
Facebook used to be good about 2 years ago (circa 2007/8), with great little add-in applications like Super Poke, Likeness and My Social Life. Then it started to slide with applications posting more drivel information into the time line. I don’t care if you just milked a cow in some virtual farm.
It is possible to filter all this stuff, but I’d like Facebook to apply some intelligence to it. “Give me back the old layout” or better still give me customisable layouts. Allow people to pick and choose widgets and build their own custom views. This is why there is an aisle of different pasta sauces in the supermarket. People like choice.
2. Read-only Friends
Bit of a tricky one, but you know that friend who you don’t really like who comments ad nauseum on your postings, pictures and wall. Wouldn’t you love to have a “look but don’t touch” setting for them? Your stuff will appear in their feed as usual and you’ll get their status feed and pictures too. If they haven’t been traumatised by your gagging order, you could still comment on them.
3. Please let me pay for Facebook.
Yes, I’m serious. Now I didn’t say “make people pay”, but what I would offer is additional functionality for a few bucks a year. People pay for ringtones and all sorts of zero-value nonsense. The vast majority of people won’t pull out their credit card for this, but some people will.
Oh... they do want your money, they just don't give a compelling incentive.
Go one better. Ask people to pay say €10 a year into a Facebook “pro” account and in doing so, give them free upgrades like “who’s been viewing my profile”, “different colour profile”, “firstname.lastname@example.org” and provide interesting things for them to spend their €10 on like gifts, premium feed from The New York Times or exclusive music or TV previews.
4. Connect me with my friends.
You would think that was what Facebook was all about, and while it is great to read friends updates, more should be done to encourage interaction. After the latest update, “games” shows me what games my friends are playing, which is a great move forward.
Allow people to create their own action tags. People post all sorts of things to facebook and “like” doesn’t cover it well. If someone posts a joke in their status, allow them to add “funny” and “not funny” options. “John thinks your joke is funny” “Dave agrees with your post” “Susan is shocked by your relationship status change.” This would require a bit of setting up (that clicking ‘awesome’ produces “Lisa found your wall posting awesome”) but with community generated content it should provide simple one-click connection with your friends.
5. Create softer notifications, requests and prompts.
These days nobody would come to work with pictures of their children and force their co-workers to applaud the antics of their Angel-Delight covered rugrats. Instead sane people post what’s going on in their life to Facebook and it’s up to you to apply your own discretion. This is the site's winning “soft” formula, but I think it should be made softer.
I know I can manage Requests (by application or friend), but it would be nicer if the site suggested to the requester “Hey, this guy has ignored the last 20 requests from other people. Do you still want to bug the guy?” Joining a Facebook group like “I bet I can find 37,000 people who like donuts” to protest about Tibet, or McDonalds or even Facebook is going to achieve nothing, or at best very little.
Even “Add as a friend” seems a bit full-on for me. I went to primary school with Thandie Newton, but she probably has no idea who I am. So I wouldn’t send a friend request, because she'll think I'm an internet weirdo. Likewise, rejecting a friend request is a slap in the face. Create some middle ground.
6. Create better games.
Above I suggest letting me pay for Facebook. With a wallet with some cash in it, great games can be paid for rather than relying on adverts. This is why there are 100,000 apps in iTunes app store. iPhone developers are competing for a slice of the cash pie. Developers don’t like eating advertising revenue pie because it tastes yuk!
Zynga’s (Farmville, Mafia Wars) CEO Mark Pincus publicly admitted that he willingly scammed players of Facebook games to build his company. Who can blame the guy though, when he’s trying to fund himself from advertising revenue? People love connecting with each other and playing together. Facebook friendships, combined with great subscription based gaming would prove to be very popular and lucrative. I’m not suggesting life consuming massive games like World of Warcraft, but is it not hard to visualise a cut-down casual version of Sims?
7. Stop being so fancy and just get it right!
Facebook already has three modes of operation. The normal one, a “lite” web version and a mobile version. At 8pm, everyone’s had their dinner, there’s nothing on TV so people check out Facebook. That’s when we start getting the “Oops” dialog. It’s frustrating that the only option is “OK”. Add a button “Go Lite” and switch me to a less sophisticated but operational version.