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The end of Facebook as you know it

Sven Krumrey

Many of the nearly 2 billion Facebook users may have recently wondered about the new posts they were shown. What before was a colorful blend of friends, general information and hobbies is now (almost exclusively) featuring friends and family. It all sounds nice and social and it cleverly hides how Facebook is slowly increasing the pressure on other site owners. The goal: to make more money! Read on to learn why others have to pay so that you won't get bored.

Facebook's no yet that abandoned

I'd originally believed that Facebook's business model was obvious: selling ads and user data. Alas, that didn't generate enough revenue to gold-plate Mark Zuckerberg's country estate, sell 3 billion more gray t-shirts or whatever his big goals may be. That's why the one commodity that should be free is now getting (overly) expensive: content visibility! From now on, your timeline will no longer display the latest posts from friends and family at the top but also posts that have been paid for! The times when simply liking pages was enough to get frequent updates are over.

I'll give you a practical example: Nic, a talented photographer, who is fond of traveling follows his passion and displays his photos on Facebook. He enjoys roaming through lonely, abandoned places to take emotional shots. He's not making big money off it but simply wants to delight and share his impressions with others. His page "Die verlassenen Orte" (abandoned places) is highly likeable and he quickly gains a respectable fan following that anxiously awaits his next photos. Once he posts them, his fans are automatically notified in their timelines, it's a great system. Well it was, until Facebook apparently turned greed into an Olympic sport.

A look at Facebook's headquarters A look at Facebook's headquarters

First, Facebook actively reduces the visibility (the propagation) of a page - then brazenly offer its owner to improve that same visibility for a fee! It's like a towing service that first stabs your tires. That's why page owners now receive various "offers" that, for example, promise to help them reach 1200 more people for just $5. And if your ambitions are bigger - so are Facebook's pockets. Here's what that means: someone posts great content (wonderful photos) that increase the value of Facebook and then has to pay so that others can see them. That's like taking money from volunteers before allowing them to help. Nic is not a special case, it's not a flaw in the system since polls with over 3000 pages point to similar tendencies.

Of course, everything looks different from Facebook's point of view. It's algorithms, more secret than than the Coca Cola recipe, that help create the best possible user experience. Sounds great, right? It's all done for the user and in a noble and selfless fashion. The visibility of various pages is only lowered to keep users from drowning in "lesser" information and to focus their attention on important / relevant posts. Let's assume for a minute that this is true: won't users be eventually still drowning in all the paid posts that now show up in their timelines or is that suddenly a different story? And why are small pages with 50 likes that only post photos of guinea pigs and certainly follow no other particular interests also affected? Why can’t I just carefully like the pages I wish to see more of in the future myself?

Frequently underestimated: guinea pigs as an economic factor Frequently underestimated: guinea pigs as an economic factor

Facebook obviously doesn't judge pages on a case by case basis. To be fair: Ashampoo also owns a well-maintained Facebook page, we use it to provide entertainment, ads and to stay in touch with you - it's OK if Facebook decides to ask for money. We're a company and we can freely decide whether we're willing to pay - which we won't since, to us, the price they're asking for is out of this world. Put in exaggerated terms, we might just as well send out mounted messengers that deliver lobster to you for the same amount. But why on earth would you want to ask money from the very people that, apart from personal interaction, contribute to the overall allure of Facebook in the first place?

Who'd willingly molest all the creative, diligent, witty and crazy characters out there that love to show us their ideas and projects? People that invest time, money and effort to make us marvel or smile time and again? Who'd demand money from small shops that maybe sell 3 crocheted potholders a month? If there's ever been an online presence that solely depends on the contributions and visits of its users it's Facebook. And many page owners have already given up once they noticed their pages are no longer visible to others. That's the moment when Facebook, while sitting on huge heaps of money, shoots itself in the foot.

Because Facebook would be so much more barren without these individuals, these tinkerers, these creators, these artists and photographers. If all you see in your timeline is friends, family, big companies and paid contents, things will get pretty lonely in the promised land. Facebook lovers will agree that, once reach and visibility become a commodity, the core principle behind Facebook is in danger. For now, monthly figures and turnover may be to Facebook's liking but it's all based on a single, delicate factor: user interest! If they keep on throwing spokes in the wheels of content producers, users may start to look elsewhere and move on to the next site. And Facebook will join places with Myspace, ICQ and many other bygone Internet giants.

Pic 1: Die verlassenen Orte (Abandoned places)
Pic 3: Sonja Stefan
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