An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg

Subject: An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg
From: George Nimeh
Date: 18 Mar 2015

Dear Mark:

You have lost focus. Please get it back.

As a longtime Facebook user, advertiser and publisher, I think your company is losing the plot, and is in danger of repeating the mistakes made by companies like Kodak, Polaroid, Sony, Myspace, BlackBerry and others. Namely, at some point you stopped focusing on delivering things that people really wanted. You have lost focus on the people using this platform, and that’s the first step toward losing touch and becoming obsolete.

So many things that so many people want, and which would make Facebook so much better, go either seemingly unattended or unfixed. You’ve got around 7,000 people working at the company, and I just don’t get it.

Need an example? Try this: Why is it that no one can get the News Feed to remember that we don’t want it sorted by “top stories”? Like most people (I imagine), I want it sorted by “most recent,” but somehow Facebook keeps flicking the switch back to “top stories.”

This happens all the time. And you know what? It pisses me off (and probably millions of other people, too) on a regular basis. How hard can it be to get that right?

Want another example of something simple that repeatedly gets under the skin of a billion people? How about this one from TechCrunch’s Mike Butcher: “I find it so annoying that I can stop notifications on some FB posts or unfollow some posts, but not all the time. Seems totally random.”

Why is that such a mystery?

How about something meatier than setting a cookie? Your search sucks. Sure, I can find people or groups, but it takes a lot of effort to get much else. Photos, stories, links, posts, videos, check-ins, playlists, etc., etc., etc. … A billion people post and share all this stuff all the time, and there is no simple way to find it. It all gets lost. Gone. Poof. Disappears into a deep, dark social-graph black hole.

And this isn’t about optimizing the content posted for brands or ad sales (although I bet there’s some extra dollars in them there keywords). This is about having a search optimized so that people can easily find their holiday pics from dinner two years ago at Grandma’s house.

People don’t search on Facebook because they don’t want to search. No one searches on Facebook because Facebook search sucks.

Back to my friend Mike Butcher. Mike raves about being able to find people via the Graph Search when he is traveling, but despite that, he says, “Now and again I write something I quite like and I can never find it again …”

The really ironic if not tragically funny thing about this little rant is that I’ve written about this before in bits and pieces — on Facebook — and I have no clue how to find what I have posted or commented other than by sifting and scrolling and browsing until I find something. That’s pathetic.

Remember that neat post by Mike Hudack about how the media is responsible for how bad the news is on FB? You know, the one that inspired Alexis Madrigal to write that clever reply? Yeah, that one. You know what the easiest way was to find that post on Facebook when the story was breaking?

Searching Twitter for their names.

You’d get several links straight to Mike’s post. That’s still true today, btw.

Think about that for a minute: Twitter does a better job searching Facebook than Facebook.

And mobile …

We all know how important mobile has become to you and Sheryl Sandberg. Makes a lot of sense. So why is the current mobile app’s News Feed algorithm so bad? It seems to have its own personal (il)logical way of deciding what to show us all, and there doesn’t seem to be any way to change it. This baffles me. The ads are fantastic (seriously), but the fact is that the product and the algorithm behind it are failing millions and millions of people every single day. To quote Hewson and Evans, “How long, how long must we sing this song?”

As I’ve said before, everybody seems to know about the problems (including lots of folks at Facebook, I imagine), but nothing seems to happen. The kids are leaving (or are they already gone?). And when something better comes along for the adults, Facebook risks becoming the next Myspace. Personally, I’d rather not see that happen. I bet you feel the same way.

The list of highly successful companies which have gone down the tubes because over time they failed to keep up with what people want is very long … and the time it takes to go from zero to hero to zero is getting shorter every single day.

You have lost focus. Please get it back. Please fix the place.


George Nimeh