Facebook and the fine art of losing friends

Perhaps it’s only to be expected from a ‘friend’ site created by someone who (reportedly) had few friends, but every time the service makes an announcement it unerringly alienates another tranche of members (or should that be ‘customers’?). And now it’s doing the same with Instagram, the photo manipulation and sharing service it purchased some months ago.

The divergence of interests between the sites and their need to make money, and the users who are used to getting everything for free – and don’t welcome any suggestion that the content, created by them, is to be exploited – is the big fault line now appearing across all new media, and particularly social media.

Here the big problem is, of course, that Facebook was wildly over-valued in its IPO, and it paid far too much for Instagram. The need to start to make money is therefore pressing. But you would’ve thought (with all that money) they might be able to communicate with their members a little better than they are at present. Instead, they seem to see every announcement and every change as an opportunity to lob a metaphorical grenade into the user experience, and then have to spend the next weeks and months clearing up the mess.

I suspect they have little or no interest in the vast majority of user-generated content, but are trying to find a formula that will enable them to jump on the coat-tails of posts that go viral (e.g. gangnam style). Either that, or they’re softening up the members with this stream of smaller shocks so that when they eventually drop the bomb, no one pays it any attention.

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