Facebook is a bad application

Facebook has been having a lot of bad press lately, so much so that I have started to wonder if they are not feeding some of it to the media themselves, just to draw the attention away from all the other bad press. (Nah, just kidding.)

The big one, however, at least (presumably) to Facebook themselves, is the stock price, which is been having a bit of a tumble after the news broke that for the first time in ages Facebook has been losing users instead of gaining them.

Facebook stock has gone down in the past as well, notably 2 and 4 years ago — so this may just be part of some weird 2-year cycle the company has found itself in — but never as steep as this time, when it went from a share price of approximately 330 USD in January to 210 USD this week.

That Facebook has been losing users (while at the same time gaining them elsewhere) is not news to me. My newsfeed has been getting increasingly quiet the past few years. Sometimes ‘friends’ just have stopped posting, sometimes their frequency has dropped considerably. Also only a few of the younger-than-40-year-olds in my friends list post any more.

As you can see the number of users is not a very good metric anyway, because Facebook probably counts that as people with an account and not necessarily as people who are (very) active.

For a company with a flagship in decline you would think that this is the time they would improve the Facebook experience, would you not? I mean, they obviously should not stop trying to develop new products just to recapture some of that waning interest, but unless they are purposely trying to shed old people, they should not actively work on making the current experience worse.

So over the past 2 years I have been keeping tabs on the ways my personal experience with Facebook has been getting worse. The list is shorter than it should be because I did not always remember to make a note every time I ran into a problem.

  • I now get regular friend requests from porn stars (i.e. entrepreneurs shilling their wares) and scammers that I do not personally know.
  • I get regular message requests from scammers.
  • The entire process of getting rid of unwanted message requests is riddled back to front with dark patterns specifically designed to make it difficult to do so. Presumably this is to drive ‘engagement’, i.e. Facebook would prefer you to become friends with scammers, because the more connections, the better. Right?
  • Red dots that indicate you are missing something important are rarely truthful; on the Pages tab, they mean “Facebook wants you to start worrying about page views” (because Facebook wants you to start buying page views). On the videos tab it is to recommend irrelevant (i.e. unengaging) videos from strangers.
  • It is obvious that Facebook sees pages as a ‘business thing’, but that wasn’t so obvious ten years ago when they started clamping down on the way Groups could be used and drove users to Pages on purpose. So it is a bit weird how since then they have sneakily started turning Pages into something else.
  • When you visit a group, these same red dots cast a shadow. Posts are ordered such that the first one is “From notifications”. This is not the setting I want, nor the setting I need, but more importantly: it is not a setting. I cannot flip a switch so that groups are always listed chronologically.
  • Regular glitches in page refreshes or simply refusals to properly update the time line, i.e. straight up bugs. All software is buggy, but pre-2020 versions of Facebook weren’t this problematic.
  • Ads for Facebook Groups that are really commercial products (presumably scams such as pyramid games and the like) can be reported as spam and hidden, except that they won’t get hidden.

There are a few things about Facebook that are good and that may even have gotten better, explicitly groups and events. In case you don’t know what these are, groups are a way to talk with strangers about a shared interest, i.e. forums but on Facebook.

Events are real-life events of which the information is maintained on Facebook. You can talk about events on the page of each event, and these pages tend to have information like time, location, pricing, a map and a list of participants. So basically like meetup.com but with actual users.

Disclosure: I use the Firefox plugin FB Purity, which helps me fix some of the worst problems with Facebook, but which in doing so might also break the site in subtler ways. I think this is still fair as Facebook forces you to use FB Purity.

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