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In the last 10 days Facebook has made numerous changes to the Facebook experience for users.  The most radical of these is coming in the next few days: A complete overhaul of the profile page which is being renamed “timeline”.

I’ve had the opportunity to play with the timeline and it is quite remarkable and I believe it will enrich the social experience and further integrate our online and offline lives in that what we do offline will be more and more reflected online.

The amount of resistance to these changes has been amazing to see.  Mashable ran a poll asking if users loved, hated or didn’t care about the changes.  With over 5 thousand votes 72% said they hated the changes, 14% loved them and 14% didn’t care.

On my own Facebook profile I defended the changes which resulted in a storm of commentary on the subject.

It’s clearly a hot topic for many.  This is my view:

We live in a world of constant change.  In our past major changes took hundreds of years (1750-1950) then changes would take around 10 years (1950-2000).  As technology began to drive our planet faster so the changes were faster.  From 2000 the world changed every 3 years or so.  From 2010 it seems change is radical, immediate and constant. One consequence is consumers and users want what they want instantly.  If a web page takes more than 4 seconds to load we’ve already moved on.

Therefore any business model must include rapid evolution and change.

This is all the more important with a brand as large as Facebook. Dominance is never assured.  Netscape was the biggest name is internet browsers in the late 90s.  Who even remembers them today?  Napster was the great evolution of online music at the start of the century.  Gone and forgotten.  Myspace was the first major social network and seemed to have such dominance that Newscorp bought them for $580 million even though it made pretty much no money.  Myspace is now a footnote in the history of social networks.  A history that is less than 10 years old.

In order to avoid becoming a phase in history by 2015 Facebook has to evolve with changing attitudes and habits of its key product, users. Being socially connected online was pretty novel in 2004, revolutionary perhaps. How does Facebook remain revolutionary 7 years later when we’ve all gotten over the novelty? It evolves and changes with a vision of how human communication and interaction will develop in the years to come.

Some of this change will probably not work and have to change yet again.  Other changes will be revolutionary and will lead to even greater innovations -innovations we cannot even fathom with available technology.  Just 10 years ago technology like the iPad seemed fantastical.  Today we hardly stop to think of the powerful technology we have in such a device.

It is a natural human instinct to resist change and have our comforts challenged.  But we are moving forward at a rate unprecedented in the relatively brief period of human history and to be secure in our place in modern civilization we must overcome this instinctive resistance and move to embrace this constant change.

And, as always happens, in a month we’ll be Facebooking like crazy and wonder what all the fuss was about because, hey this stuff is amazing.

 

 

 

4 Response Comments

  • MartinSeptember 27, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Ryan I still think you’re fixated on change when it is not a big deal. For the last 30 years there has been such a focus on change, especially in the workplace, that I don’t think it bothers people that much anymore.

    You note the mashable pole which states that 72% didn’t like that FB changes and then you blame it on people’s resistance to change. Do you have any proof of this? Any data that you can produce that states that this is in fact the problem? Surely the simpler explanation fits? And the simpler explanation is simply that people don’t like that changes, as they stated in the pole, not that people are resistant to change.

    The truth is that FB has us locked in. If I had a viable alternative to Facebook that also had all my friends as members and they changed their site thoughtfully and in a positive way using consensus building instead of just foisting their latest “good ideas” (actually they’re “for profit” features, lets just call them what they are) onto their victims would I still be using FB as my main social medium? No way. And ironically if FB had some viable competition they wouldn’t institute wholesale changes on their users that would cause a riot, why not? Because people would simply move to the competition. Some viable competition would force Facebook to become a good citizen instead of the pushy bully they are.

    Frankly people are locked in to Facebook and with no viable alternatives FB can have it’s way with it’s users in the worst way possible.

    People are not as resistant to change as you make out. People are locked in and they know it at least subconsciously and it pisses them off when they get bullied and pushed around.

    I work with people and change on a daily basis and people are not as resistant to change as it is made out to be. 99% of the time the problem is the institutor of the change that handles it badly, foists it on unsuspecting people that react in outrage and he/she is then shocked at the response and think that people don’t like change when in fact they did a lousy job of putting the change in place: no announcements, no explanation, no training, no preparation, bad implementation and then a blow up.

    That’s often how it plays out.

    The changes that are being implemented are to boost the Facebook bottom line. The FB IPO is coming – prepare to be monetized.

    Reply
    • RyanhogarthSeptember 28, 2011 at 9:01 am

      Hey Martin, we’re clearly on differing sides of this issue but thanks for your robust commentary on this. I’m sure there’ll be more!

      Reply
  • MartinSeptember 28, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Veeeeeeeeennnnnnnnnndddddddddooooooooorrrrrrrrr llllllllllooooooooocccccccckkkkkkkkkk iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnn.

    Look it up! 🙂

    Okay kidding aside, nah don’t worry I’m pretty much done with this topic.

    Reply
  • Martin CoetzeeSeptember 28, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Wow impressive, I write a comment on your blog and it appears on FB without my permission. Lol.

    Reply

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