Facebook and Us: Examining What Users Use

Jamie is analyzing changes of Facebook’s user interface and the associated changes in user behavior for a research project at Stanford University.  See a more detailed overview of this assignment.

Your interaction with Facebook is defined by its interface. Facebook’s News Feed and Profile layout are essential the way you connect with your peers; how each aspect of Facebook is laid out is a reflection of how users use Facebook. By changing this interface, Facebook is acknowledging that its new features or layout can better serve today’s user than the last user.

A key part of my research is how users interact with their Facebook. I am actively pursuing a number of articles detailing various perspectives about how Facebook is used. In late August, 2007, Newsweek published one of these articles, titled “Facebook Grows Up”. It details the rise of Facebook and in between the narrative about Facebook’s explosive growth and future business plan, has tidbits regarding the use of the social network. These tidbits are old – from 2007 – and the users’ experiences with Facebook even sound dated, but are a perfect reflection of how we used Facebook and how our use has changed since.

In May 2007, Mark Zuckerberg opened his website up to applications. Independent developers were allowed to write applications that could be integrated into your Facebook profile. “Zuckerberg took Facebook in a new direction: he opened up the Web site to thoustands of developers, who can now unilaterally install applications designed to take advantage of Facebook’s people connections”. This development turned into a slew of developers who capitalized on this opportunity, and thousands of Facebook developers pushed out apps to the arms of waiting Facebook users. The most famous of which are Zynga, the developer of Farmville and Mafia Wars. The value of social gaming companies has exploded, with Zynga estimated to be worth 5 billion by various industry experts, as big as the largest traditional gave developer, Electronic Arts.

Where have all the applications gone? In the year 2011, I have not gotten one invite to help out a farm or join a mob. It seems that the application developers seem to have satiated their desire to dominate my profile. Facebook has made the decision to feature applications less prominently on people’s profiles. The impact that applications have had has been reduced and users have been given controls to reduce the interaction with others’ applications. Facebook’s decision to reduce the visibility of various applications shows that users are not interested in what applications have to offer. While the applications that developers had to offer were novel, they were ultimately not what the users of Facebook wanted or needed.  Facebook changed its profile to reflect that. The next time you log on to Facebook, think about Facebook’s profile affects your interactions on the social network.

The article cited is available here.

This entry was posted in CCR exchange: Student Research, Networked Rhetoric: Section 2, Stanford Networked Rhetorics class, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Facebook and Us: Examining What Users Use

  1. Pingback: Researching Networked Culture | The Cross-Cultural Rhetoric Blog

  2. hspinks says:

    I really like what you’re getting at about how the design of Facebook impacts the way we use it. It’s good that you have found older sources – it is really easy to forget about how we used to use Facebook every time a new interface comes out. In order to understand the difference between the Facebook of today and older Facebook, it is important to remember how we used to use the social network, which can be difficult because once the interface is changed, the old layout is lost forever.

    One question that I have is, if Facebook is limiting the spread of applications, why are there more applications on Facebook than ever before? And why are more people using them than ever before?

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