Love/Hate Relationship with Facebook

My column this week at is on my business's experience with Facebook and what it might mean for Facebook's valuation.  An excerpt:

And woe be to he who actually develops for the platform, because he may soon find out that it all became wasted effort at the next over-caffeinated random user interface change.  I just did a tiny, minor bit of coding (less than a few hours) that takes my page administrators’ status updates and posts them as a news feed on our main web site.  I could do more interesting things, but I have absolutely no confidence that whatever hooks I take advantage of into the Facebook system will still be supported tomorrow.

Now, one could easily argue that this is all fixable.  And it is.  Some simple steps might include:

  • Create an internal advocacy group for enterprise users.
  • Stabilize the user interface.  Communicate a long-term plan and revision history to enterprise users.
  • As in other publishing engines, allow multiple levels of editorial rights for pages (today there is just one choice: administrator)
  • Allow more control of page layouts, perhaps in conjunction with a paid model, up to and including ability to eliminate ads and the patented Facebook clutter.

Over time, however, I have lost confidence that Facebook culturally is up to the task.  No, that’s not quite right.  I have lost confidence that Facebook evenwants to take on the task.  In Facebook, pages were meant for fans who wanted to create homages to their favorite band.  My gut feels is that the Facebook culture can’t get past the notion that corporations are “icky” and have hijacked the pages for crass commercial purposes.  Perhaps I am overly pessimistic, but all the Facebook changes I have observed over the last two years have actually taken the platform backwards as far as my business needs are concerned.



  1. Orion:

    I have a company Facebook page, and it is OK..kind of. I am not going to do any coding or put more into it, just post pics and articles that I hope our fans like. Now, all that said, I think Facebook users, both corporate and personal, miss the point. I read it elsewhere so I can't take credit for the line: but we are the product, not the customer. Maybe ads are what drives revenue for them now, but in the long run I don't think that is where they will make money, if they do. What they have to sell is information about consumer and business activity and interests. Their profit should be in demographic data. I can only imagine that governments and large corporations are going to purchase (and in the case of governments-demand), information from Facebook about users, competitors, etc. In fact, I wish Zuck would contact me-I'd take a nice gig working with Facebook to figure out how to sell their data to big data users.

  2. BlogDog:

    "to him" nez pah? Object of the preposition I do believe.
    But if I misread this, I'm open to correction.

  3. Jim Clay:

    So were you able to short Facebook?

  4. DoctorT:

    I had a bare bones Facebook account when my daughter went to Germany for a year. (She refused to use iChat.) I hated it. I cannot understand the appeal of posting information on a site that sells everything it can learn about you to anyone willing to pay.

    Businesses would be better served by going retro to a CompuServe-style bulletin board service upgraded to support images and videos.

  5. Rusty Bill:

    What's a "facebook"?

  6. Sandman:

    I develop Facebook apps, and I see where you're coming from in terms of changes. However, I've also seen it from the other side, where companies are so afraid to change things because they're worried that their current customers will freak out. Eventually, someone new comes along, without the baggage of the past, and does it better.

    This is a tough balance, and I think sometimes Facebook goes too far, but I see where they're coming from. I also don't have the same feeling about their attitudes towards corporations being 'icky'. I think they believe that if they allow companies too much control, they will ruin the experience, and I don't disagree with that.

  7. Mesa Econoguy:

    If you think Facebook is hot, wait till you see PhoneBook:

    “With PhoneBook, you have a book that has a list of all your friends in the city, plus everyone else who lives there,” says Danny Fruber, one of PhoneBook’s creators.

    “When you want to chat with a friend, you look them up in PhoneBook, and find their unique PhoneBook number,” Fruber explains. “Then you enter that number into your phone and it connects you directly to them.”

    Another breakout utility of PhoneBook allows the user to arrange face-to-face meetings with his or her friends at restaurants, bars, and other “places,” as Fruber calls them.

    “You will be sitting right across from your friend and seeing them in 3-D,” he said. “It’s like Skype, only without the headset.”

  8. el coronado:

    Beyond all that, Facebook's gonna turn out to be - in just a few short years, I think - just another whizbang fad. Like pet rocks & leg warmers, if you go back that far. If you want a more recent business model, consider that back in 1995 or so, everybody was smokin' *Cigars*. Even hot babes. Cigar bars abounded, ritzy private humidors had waiting lists, and it was patently _obvious_ that the cigar culture would be ubiquitous for the next 100 years or so. Then after a couple of years of this, people looked at the stinking things they were puffing and came to their senses. "What the hell was I thinking?" Facebook is tailor-made for schoolkids & college students, sure. But eventually, they grow up and move on. They put away their childish things.

    If I were Zuckerberg, I'd be pulling a Mark Cuban about now and frantically hedging the living crap out of my shares.

  9. DLapin:

    I think you underestimate their hubris. They believe that they drive the business; that the Facebook experience itself is valuable enough to the market that they do not need to respond to external forces. This is classic monopolistic behavior, and it doesn't seem to be changing.

  10. DensityDuck:

    "I have a company Facebook page, and it is OK..kind of. I am not going to do any coding or put more into it, just post pics and articles that I hope our fans like."

    And if you're doing anything more complicated than that, then You're Doing Facebook Wrong.

    Facebook is not a replacement for web pages.

  11. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States:

    >>> This is classic monopolistic behavior, and it doesn’t seem to be changing.

    Things will change, they always do. Even Microsoft is about to lose their monopoly, and they're running scared because of it, but this time, unlike with Netscape, it's too late. No one is going to buy a Windows phone -- They missed the phone-tablet-PC convergence (even though it was kind of inevitable, though I grant that's easier to say in retrospect). Android is about to eat their lunch. Only Apple could challenge them at this point and they don't have the business acumen to realize how to advance from the initial market stages to saturation market stages. They're going to screw that up just like they did their dominance of the PC market with the Macintosh. They are masters at creating and opening a market, but total incompetents when it comes to moving to saturation of the same markets.

    Someone will come up with a better model than FB and/or create an adjunct that melds smoothly with FB for business users. Heck, that's a business opportunity, right there -- provide a business-friendly front end and be the company that specializes in "solving" the problems that FB creates by flexing its interface.

  12. Ted Rado:

    I must be missing something. If I want a friend to know something, I send him an e-mail or phone him. Why would I want all sorts of personal stuff out there for all to see?

    Many use this modern electronic stuff as a baby sitter. The kids play with their i-phones all day. They should be playing ball, reading, or something else useful. TV is bad enough in creating idiots with square eyeballs. This other stuff is destroying our youth, physically and mentally.

  13. IGotBupkis, Poking Fun At President Downgrade For 4 Years and Counting...:

    Ted, I've got a smartphone. It is exceptionally useful in so many ways.

    Just today, a friend and I were having a discussion about snakes, and I recalled (correctly, it turns out) that there were only four species of venomous snakes native to North America (almost the opposite of Australia, where even the rocks and the dirt are venomous). I was able to verify my assertion within minutes.

    I often eat with that friend, and I tend to eat faster, so I get finished faster. I could monologue him, boring him with the same old stories over and over again, but "dialogue" is not practical -- he's eating. So I often whip my phone out and play a game for the 5-odd minutes it takes him to finish. Or I look up something -- news, whatever -- on the internet.

    Yeah, there is, like any technology, the possibility of real "abuse" -- having it detract from life rather than add to it. But that's just a matter of sense.

    Add to that all the other stuff. In addition to being a first generation Star Trek communicator, it's also got a lot of sensors in it that pretty much also turn it into a first generation Star Trek tricorder. I can use it as a level, a motion sensor, a camera, a video/audio recorder, a GPS unit, an accelerometer, and it can even detect magnetic fields.

    These things are freaking MAGIC, and it's amazing how little people appreciate the things.

  14. IGotBupkis, Poking Fun At President Downgrade For 4 Years and Counting...:

    P.S., my own commentary is to point out that the smartphone is not a TV -- you don't just sit there and vege out. It is an interactive device, and it engages your mind. If you're playing a game on it, it also engages some varieties of your physical capacity in terms of manual dexterity.

    And there will no doubt come the time when it replaces game consoles completely. And then I want to see you say it's a waste at developing physical talents when you can't keep up with a six year old at Dance Dance Revolution.... not just in terms of stamina, but in terms of simple whole-body physical dexterity.

    We are moving AWAY from vegetative media/entertainment, not towards it.

  15. Ted Rado:


    I-phones are very useful. No doubt. My girlfriend loves hers.

    We visited young friends a while ago who have kids 8 and 10 years old. All the kids did for three days was play with their i-phones. We were appalled! Many teenagers spend hours per day texting or chatting. Is this a constructive use of their time?

    You don't see kids playing ball or other games in the street the way you did many decades ago. While modern electronics are wonderfull, I fear they have replaced many activities which are good for the mind, health, and society.

    I was heavily involved in computer simulation work for many years before I retired, so I have a great appreciation for what modern things can do. I also see much misuse of them. (I could write a whole book on that subject!)

    For many years, I was a hiker and backpacker. Such activities are much better for young people than playing with an i-phone or other electronic toys.