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Saturday
Mar262011

What I Dislike About Facebook

Facebook rules the social web. There is no question about it. But when I look at its interface, at the interaction and visual design, at the support pages, at the overly complicated privacy controls, at the notoriously difficult account cancellation process, I cannot help but think that this is to the web what Microsoft was to the world of operating systems: a juggernaught that quickly came to dominate its industry but that will also inevitably stifle and prevent any form of innovation in the future.

Despite its virality, Facebook is complicated.

Facebook has seen unprecedented growth in user numbers and is today the largest social network in the world, dwarfing most other web properties by orders of magnitude. Nevertheless, and surprisingly enough, I would say that it is far from being easy to use. Yet, simplicity should be one of the most cherished principles for any web startup. Facebook, I would like to argue, is more complicated than it needs to be. Let me illustrate that contention of mine with a simple case study: registering a business on Facebook vs. registering one on Twitter.

Registering a business on Twitter

In order to register a business on Twitter, all you need to do is follow these simple steps – which, by the way, work just as advertised:

  1. Go to Twitter.com and click Sign Up
  2. Enter a full name, username, password and email address
  3. Skip the steps in the following setup assistant
  4. Follow the link in the confirmation email to be able to tweet
  5. Click on Profile and customize the settings

Registering a business on Facebook

In order to register a business on Facebook, the following needs to happen:

  1. Go to Facebook.com and click on the sightly hidden link Create a Page for a celebrity, band or business.
  2. Click on one of the main categories, most likely Company, Organization, or Institution
  3. Choose among the weird and seemingly arbitrary subcategories such as Aerospace/Defense, Company, Biotechnology or Organization and enter the company name (which will not automatically be the username for the page)
  4. Enter the first incredibly difficult-to-read captcha in the subsequent Security Check (see the image above)
  5. Enter an email address, a password, a date of birth (of what, the company?) and enter the second captcha in a new Security Check (why do we need that second check again?)
  6. Follow the link in the confirmation email to be able to log in
  7. Skip the steps in the following setup assistant
  8. Navigate through the confusing settings to customize the profile
  9. Be careful enough not to click the confusing button Create Your Profile on the top of the page which will create a personal account out of the company account – an irreversible action
  10. Add a different personal Facebook account as an admin of the page to enable that account to use the confusing feature Use Facebook as Page which will allow you to perform actions your main page account is not allowed to perform (such as liking other pages)
  11. Collect 25 likes for your page (needed to apply for a username)
  12. Go to Facebook.com/username to apply for a username (unfortunately, trying to do that from within the Settings only leads to a "Loading" message which will never disappear)
  13. Last but not least, the account has to be verified (which, in Germany, requires you to have an O2 mobile number – right, other cell phone providers are not supported, and that is not mentioned anywhere)
  14. If you are lucky, there are no further captchas to fill out

Am I the only one who thinks that this kind of sucks?

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