|  June 27 2012  |   Blog   |   3 COMMENTS

Earlier this week, Facebook changed some information on your profile without asking. Don’t believe me? Check your contact information. Unless you’ve already changed it, your email address is now listed as ‘something’@facebook.com. The fix is quite easy – just click About under your profile photo, then edit your contact info so that your primary email address is visible on your profile, and your new Facebook email is hidden. Unless, of course, you actually want your email listed as ‘something’@facebook.com.

How, and why, did Facebook do this?

As a bit of background, the @facebook.com email addresses have actually existed since 2010 (which you probably either didn’t know or forgot about), basically as part of Facebook’s revamping of their message system. When you send an email to someone at their @facebook.com account, it just goes to their Facebook messages. So what’s the point? The point is, or was, to centralize all your forms of communication (chats, messages and emails) to make it “easier” for you to wade through them and keep up constant conversations with your friends.

What’s the idea behind the new profile changes? Nobody is exactly sure yet. Facebook’s official statement is that they’ve simply extended users’ ability to show or hide their profile/timeline information to their email addresses. That’s pretty vague, and doesn’t address why they automatically changed the visible email to the @facebook.com account.

Of course, this isn’t the biggest deal ever, but for many users it is annoying and represents part of a larger trend of arguably unnecessary changes, often despite negative customer feedback. These changes have included layout modifications, the “personalized” mini-feed, endless and esoteric privacy changes and most famously, Facebook Timeline (which only 111 out of my 715 Facebook friends even use at this point).

Some are saying that Facebook “just doesn’t care” how we feel about all these changes. Others have defended Facebook’s evolution as a progression towards a better and better tool for communications, and a better end user experience. What seems likely is that Zuckerberg and Co. make the changes they see as sensible, and assume that users will eventually come around to them… and if they don’t, they really don’t have anywhere else to turn, right? Let’s face it, Google+ is just not shaping up to be a real competitor.

But should Facebook be so comfortable in its monopoly over the social media industry? Remember the once-proud AOL? Once the undisputed top dog of internet service providers with some 30 million subscribers, AOL now serves only a little more than 3 million customers. 30 million might not seem like a lot compared with Facebook’s 900 million, but keep in mind that in AOL’s heyday, home internet access was the exception and not the norm.

At some point, Facebook needs to take constructive criticism seriously. All things considered, it’s more than a little pompous to change users’ contact information without warning, and without asking.

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  1. Doug you hit the nail right on the head. This is how Facebook operates. They overstep their bounds, wait for people to complain about it, issue a half-apology along the lines of “We should have given people more warning,” and then proceed to continue to do whatever they want.

    And why should they listen to their members? People have been complaining about every change Facebook has made since they first started letting people outside college join in 2005. For every “horrible” move they make, they gain hundreds of millions of more members. They operate under the assumption that people don’t know what they want and aren’t a reliable source of good ideas. Steve Jobs operated under the same assumption. Heck even the Constitution was drafted under the same basic assumption of mass ignorance. Like what Henry Ford said: “If I asked the people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”

    Jason Fidler
    June 27, 2012

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful response, Jason. The question is, ten years down the line, will Facebook be able to keep up with the times and continue predicting what users will want? Or will its hubris kill it?

    AOL failed because people got tired of its “walled off approach” to internet access, a relic of the 90s that assumed users didn’t know what they were doing, and needed a homogeneous ecosystem to navigate the web. It worked perfectly when every internet user was essentially a n00b, but when people became savvier, they found it insulting.

    Facebook could potentially have the same problem a decade or so down the road, when social media is no longer novel, and when the internet may have evolved away from traditional sites and more towards platforms. Perhaps then, people won’t feel like Facebook is the only or best way to keep in touch and share content. i guess the big question is, is Facebook too big to fail?

    Doug Flora
    June 27, 2012

  3. I’m going to bring Friendster back.

    Liz Swenton
    June 27, 2012
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