No I do not want to be a fan of Mylie Cyrus!
I am usually open to changes, sometimes even a little too eager to be an early adopter. I admire developers and companies that constantly revisit their design decisions and add features to increase usability of their product and enhance the user experience. Google, especially in case of GMail, has been the poster child of this style of development and Facebook has been an exemplary follower of this style. In few short years, Facebook has managed to not only generate a huge userbase but also has become a platform for businesses all over to reach out to their users and get valuable feedback.
While I have been critical, I have been in favor of most of the features that were added (I wish Facebook allowed me to link to a particular status like Twitter does so I can link instances here but you are going to have to take my word for it on this one). I have generally liked the layouts and have been tolerant of them mixing advertisements with highlights on the home page. However, they recently did something that has hit a nerve and I am not the only one.
Jo Lilore hits the nail on the head when he says “Facebook needs a User Experience intervention.” I understand that they are trying to attract businesses to use facebook as the platform of choice for their marketing and customer outreach campaigns, especially with Twitter’s popularity soaring among businesses. However, they are completely missing the point that businesses will not be there when all the users leave. For me, People you may know was a useful feature that helped me connect with old friends. It was not perfect by any means but the noise in the data was bearable. With the conversion into Suggestions, Facebook has made it almost impossible to find old friends among Mylie Cyrus, Jonas Brothers and any other sad excuse for a celebrity elevated to stardom by MTV, VH1, or any other channel with majority if viewrship going to teenagers.
It seems that Facebook is trying to capture any piece of the market that Twitter has won over and they are doing so at the user’s expense. Twitter is lightweight tool with an excellent API and while Facebook allows one to do much more than have live conversations, majority of businesses are interested in just these conversations (and conversations are where Twitter shines). While Facebook pages and application platform have been popular marketing platform for businesses, they are quickly realizing that they can engage with their audience in the same way with a lot less effort using Twitter.
The one thing that is going for Facebook is that it has a large user base and there are still quite a few people who do not “get” Twitter. However, if Facebook continues to annoy users by constantly “suggesting” what people/products/things they should be a fan, its userbase is going to plateau and the time that users spend on the site is going to go down.
UPDATE: There are a few things that Facebook could do where I think users would be ok with it marketing celebrities/products/services.It could give the user the option to hide the suggestions portion so that you no longer have to deal with it. However, this would be similar to TVs giving you the option to skip/hide commercials which we all know is not going to happen. The other option would be for Facebook to use a better algorithm where it uses information the user has provided to best guess who they might actually would be a fan of rather that just showing a slew of people loosely based on the fact that one of your facebook friends became a fan. I am sure they can do a better job than that. This is one way they can emulate Google.