Really BIG numbers of people

A lot seems to be made in the media about user reactions to changes in services like Facebook. There’s a certain amount of spiteful glee with which these stories are reported. Facebook is being “forced to backpedal”, or “driven into a u-turn” by “user revolt” over changes in its UI/homepage. The media peddles this perception that Facebook just can’t seem to get it right. That every time they make any change there’s this huge uprising and backlash of user opinion against them.

However, last time I checked Facebook had over 180 million users. If it was a country it would be the 6th largest country in the world, between Brazil and Pakistan. So, let’s face it, if Facebook were simply to change the colour of their page header to a slightly lighter blue then just statistically they would be likely to piss off around 20 million people and confuse another 30 million. Firstly, people don’t like change. Secondly, everyone is either an expert about what Facebook should be like or a critic of how it is. Finally, as Mr Gladwell has explained, you can’t trust people’s opinions about what they like or what they want anyway. The vast majority of the these millions of users didn’t even know they wanted Facebook until Zuckerberg and Co. presented it to them. Every time there’s a change at Facebook a dozen or more groups will be formed called things like “Give us back our old Facebook!”. These groups will generally contain all the people who joined the same groups last time there was a change. So, which is it people ? Do you want your old Facebook back ? Or your old, old Facebook? Or how about your old, old, old Facebook ? Or how about you just go back to MySpace where you get to make all the design decisions, because I remember how good you all were at it. Those MySpace pages were just beautiful. Billions of lines of centred, 18pt, bold Comic Sans in neon yellow on black.

So, you think Facebook have problems ? If Microsoft Office were a country it would be the 3rd largest country in the world, right there after China and India. Close to 500 million users and that’s just the people who’ve bought licenses. It’s also a commercial application which people pay for and on which they depend for their productivity. There are vast communities of “professional” powers users. Hoards of people who use Microsoft Excel for a living. The 5 extra seconds it takes to find one single menu item that’s been moved multiplied by half a billion users means about 100,000 man days of productivity are lost on just the first day a new version of office is released – yeah, yeah, I know. It doesn’t quite work like that, but you get my point.

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