I’m not one to speculate on rumors (in fact, I’m usually the last to know) but Techcrunch profiled a new photo sharing app from the House of Facebook that piqued my interest. Josh Constine speculated about a few use cases where the new app, Moments, could help. All the cases seem viable but I found this to be the most troubling of them all: “Moments could help people who’ve shared a status with too many or too few people by accident because they didn’t understand Facebook’s privacy settings.”
Before I go on about Moments, take look at Facebook’s press release from today about how iOS 8 will influence the Facebook app. Facebook is explaining the new iOS location data options, and how that data is used by Facebook:
- “You control your location information. Nothing is changing and Facebook will continue to respect the choices you’ve made about location.
- As always, Facebook doesn’t get location information from your device unless you enable Location Services.”
It looks like Facebook is trying to extinguish a location panic before it starts and trying to avoid a backlash similar to the one after the independent Messenger app launched. After that launch, the New York Times wrote this analysis: “The fact that people are so upset over the Messenger migration shows that Facebook has used up a lot of our good will and trust over the years, and will have to work that much harder to get users back on board.” Users don’t trust Facebook any more and believe that Facebook is getting “too much” data from them. What’s “too much?” More than they want to give.
When you look at these three unrelated posts about and from Facebook, a troubling picture emerges from the product perspective. There is a disconnect between what Facebook wants and what its users want, and though users love and use Facebook, they are moving to other products that give them those features. I think the product “discrepancies” fall into two categories:
- Sharing options: it’s not entirely clear to users who they are sharing updates with. It’s also not clear what data is shared with Facebook during every update. For example, location being shared unintentionally is one aspect that makes users wary of posting anything.
- Update reach: It’s not clear to users who gets to see their posts but they do know that the people they want to see their posts aren’t seeing them. This is because of Facebook’s newsfeed filtering algorithm. The most unbiased statistic I found online was based on a Stanford study from last year: “Facebook users reach 35% of their friends with each post and 61% of their friends over the course of a month.”
Facebook’s motivation, however, is almost the opposite of those two user needs:
- Sharing: Facebook wants people to share more information about themselves. They call it “telling your story” and urge users to share more about their lives and what they are doing. It’s understandable that given this motivation, Facebook placed the barriers to sharing as low as possible. For users that meant defaults set to be as public as possible, and the “frictionless sharing touted by Facebook a bit over a year ago was, perhaps, too easy as it led users to share information they did not want to share, leading to that distrust discussed in the Times article.
- Update reach: the newsfeed is Facebook’s most valuable asset. Mobile or desktop, it is where they get the paid content in front of users.
So back to the rumors about Moments: users do want a platform for sharing on their own terms, with only the people they want to share with, and have those posts reach those people. Facebook wants users to share more information with them, not necessarily the entire public. Perhaps a new app, a fresh start without users needing to re-enter their social graph, is a good bet for Facebook. Just like after a wildfire, a fresh start will give both users and Facebook the product they want.
As an aside, I give Facebook a lot of credit for posting the iOS location changes before the iOS launch. They’ve realized that they have a trust problem and are working proactively to change user sentiment. That’s a good thing.