The New Facebook Newsfeed: Slow. Over-engineered. I Like It.
July 24, 2008 1 Comment
Facebook recently rolled out several changes related to activity streams and commenting. As TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington noted, these changes represent the “Friendfeedization” of Facebook. The changes include the ability to import activities from other services (e.g. Twitter, blogs, Last.fm, etc.).
Before looking at these changes, let’s take a moment to understand Facebook’s market position. Recent numbers indicate that Facebook continues its tremendous growth. Mashable’s Adam Ostrow reported that Facebook had a terrific June in the United States:
According to Nielsen Online, Facebook swelled to 29.2M unique visitors in the US, up more than 10 percent from May.
It’s clear the site continues to do well with larger numbers of mainstream users. But among the tech cognoscenti, there is a different view of Facebook. Dave Winer wrote this on FriendFeed:
Am I the only one who doesn’t give a flying fcuk about Facebook?
There were a number of concurring comments. And that’s fair. I really haven’t been on Facebook much in the last several months.
But Facebook is definitely working to improve the experience on its site. Now one might argue that with mainstream users’ growth, what do they need to do? From my perspective, they need to make the site more interactive.
So we have the new changes. Let’s look at them.
Services Import = More You, More Activity
Definitely a component of the FriendFeedization. Having been on FriendFeed for several months, I’ve gained a healthy appreciation for others’ content: Flickr photos, Last.fm music, blogs, tweets, direct posts of cool and funny stuff. It really is like people are TV channels on FriendFeed.
Bringing these into Facebook is a great complement to the usual apps and group joining that seems to dominate the newsfeed. It will be nice to see more of the things my friends like.
Hopefully it will help the level of activity on the site. Compared to FriendFeed’s Mississippi River of content, Facebook is a quiet brook.
Newsfeed Rules Make the Activity Stream Pretty Quiet
Facebook has rules that govern what content makes it into the newsfeed of members. This is a difference to the wide open flow of Friendfeed. In FriendFeed, users control the noise. In Facebook, the site controls the noise. And according to TechCrunch, those noise control rules will be updated. It will be harder for many apps’ activity to make it into the newsfeed.
Great for managing those annoying app updates. But not so good for fostering increased interaction around users’ activities, as only a fraction of them will get through. A half-commitment to lifestreaming.
Maybe it’s just me, but my newsfeed is dominated by Facebook photos. Keep those in there, but I’d like to see a greater variety of entries show up.
Commenting = Great Addition, Wish It Was More “In the Flow”
This is the most direct FriendFeedization feature: commenting on the activities of friends. I really love this feature. Previously, it was see something in the newsfeed, then go post a message to the person. Nice that it’s all bundled together now. Conversation around activities.
I already received some benefit from the feature. I now know of a website that will tell me where iPhones are available. How’d that happen? I commented on an item on my Facebook newsfeed:
My friend Amy isn’t on FriendFeed. But her status update, my question, and her response, are exactly the kinds of interactions that regularly occur on FriendFeed.
One observation about the commenting. After someone responds to a comment on their entry, the ‘comment’ button disappears. No chance to follow-up commenting in the main newsfeed. You can see this in the graphic above. There’s no ‘comment’ button to click.
You can go to the user’s profile page and post a follow-up comment. So it is possible to continue the conversation, but Facebook takes it out of the newsfeed flow.
One other point versus FriendFeed. In Facebook, you get notifications of comments on an item. This contrasts with FriendFeed’s “bounce to the top” approach of seeing new comments. Notifications are just fine for me.
Facebook Is Still a Little Strange to this FriendFeed Addict
FriendFeed is very good with presenting content and letting users make quick interactions around it. Facebook isn’t quite that. Consider this exchange. My sister had an update in the Facebook newsfeed from one of her apps. Here’s how that conversation went:
My sister’s update: Helen has updated the Cities I’ve Visited map, by TripAdvisor.
Me: Which city?
My sister: Which city, what?
So I’d have to add the TripAdvisor app to my profile, then navigate over to my sister’s profile, and figure out what my sister updated. Painful.
Facebook Is Slow and Heavy
Facebook is very slow. Every page takes forever to load. Facebook’s slowness is a restrictor plate on interactions there.
Robert Scoble talked with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg about this, and posted this comment on FriendFeed:
Mark Zuckerberg and I talked about FriendFeed today. He says he likes the search engine here. Explained that Facebook’s scale is slowing them down. Says that 90 million users make things go slow.
In that FriendFeed thread, Duncan Riley points out that Google Search is lightning fast with billions of users. But to be fair, Google Search doesn’t need to access everyone’s individual rules, settings and apps loaded specifically to everyone’s page. Doesn’t make the slowness any better though.
Facebook Status Updates Are the Best Comment Fodder
The status updates are great because they provide a natural basis for conversation. The things people do are those things which they’re most likely going to talk about. As the experience with my sister’s TripAdvisor app shows, commenting on actvities with apps is a little more painful.
One of my friends did include a blog post about Pandora and the iPhone in her newsfeed. I clicked on that, read the post, and came back to the newsfeed to make a comment. Felt very FriendFeed-ish.
I ‘Like’ the New Facebook Newsfeed
All that being said, I do like the new newsfeed.I have a whole circle ofd friends who do not hang out on FriendFeed. And the stuff that makes up their streams is different from those I follow on FriendFeed.
It’s a slower pace over on Facebook, but that’s OK for what it is. I use FriendFeed to learn information and points of view. I use Facebook to keep track of all those other little life details.
See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22The+New+Facebook+Newsfeed%3A+Slow.+Over-engineered.+I+Like+It.%22&public=1