In the 1960’s there was The New Math — an educational debacle that sought to replace straightforward numerical concepts with mind-numbing “progressive” gobbledygook (such as set theory and modular arithmetic). Parents and teachers were stumped. Kids didn’t learn anything.
Then in the 80’s we had New Coke, perhaps the biggest marketing blunder of all time. Executives at The Coca-Cola Company decided it was time to update the iconic product, so they fiddled with the formula and rebranded it with a nickname. The public revolted. Coca-Cola “Classic” was back on the shelves within months.
This past weekend, we have witnessed one of the most senseless, ill-conceived moves on the part of a major Internet service since — well, since the last senseless, ill-conceived move on the part of a major Internet service: New Facebook.
New Facebook is a disaster on several fronts. First, it has taken something relatively simple, and complicated it unnecessarily. All day on Sunday, October 25, Facebook users posted messages of helplessness and frustration. People desperately copied-and-pasted instructions on how to change the News Feed back (more or less) to the way it had previously been.
Three Facebook groups sprang up, created by users to vent their displeasure with the changes. The largest at this time of writing has over 1.3 million members.
But the second, much worse problem, is that Facebook is treating its users like children and morons. If you have more than 250 connections, Facebook now chooses a “selection” of contacts that you’ll receive Status Updates from, and shuts out the rest.
How does the system determine which of your friends it will show, and which it will hide from you? Not only does Facebook not tell you this (nor does it say which friends’ updates it’s preventing you from seeing), it doesn’t even tell you that it’s making this determination for you.
Granted, you can change this setting — but first you have to know about it. And this is the worst of the worst, the crème de la crème of lousy, insulting, idiotic decisions: Facebook has made these changes with no advance warning, and no explanation to its users whatsoever. Apparently, Facebook knows what’s good for you. If you can’t figure it out on your own (or with the aid of friends who despise the new system as much as you do), too bad.
This new system raises very serious problems for those of us who have used Facebook as a marketing and communications tool. Now there is a danger that some people who have chosen to follow you will not get your updates; the Facebook system might decide that you don’t make the cut, and your messages won’t show up as one of their 250.
When a website causes as much bafflement as Facebook is, some people are sure to lose interest, and might stop logging in altogether. If you have no other means of reaching a person, and he or she signs off for good, you have essentially lost them as a prospect or client.
All of this is an excellent example of why you shouldn’t rely on third-party websites (or social networking services like Twitter) as your primary means for communicating messages. As soon as the people in charge of the sites start smoking crack and change things for the worse, you’re at the mercy of their insanity.
In a previous article, I said that your email list is your most important means of staying in touch with those who want to hear from you. Among other reasons, an email newsletter is the one thing that you control completely — even your own website or blog could be interrupted due to technical problems, or shut down completely if some do-gooder employee at an ISP determines that you’re publishing “inappropriate” content.
Will the outcry over New Facebook be so great that, like the New Math and New Coke, it will eventually be dropped and forgotten? Let’s hope so. In the meantime, please join this Facebook group and make your voice heard!
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