Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) has always maintained an uneasy relationship with its users. The company constantly experiments with format changes the often raise the ire of the social network’s population, while advertising’s position on the site has always been a point of contention.
One of the reasons Facebook managed to take over from MySpace in recent years was the seamless, simplistic, and non intrusive user experience it offered. The firm is now towing the line between a clean experience and greater immersion as a new glitch makes clear.
In recent days users have been reporting that contacts on their smart phones have had their details altered, making a contact’s @facebook.com email address the primary method of contacting them. The move has not been greeted by users. The sight of Facebook taking total control of contact lists is an annoyance, rather than a boon, to most.
Facebook has announced it is investigating the problem, and today said that they were working on a fix. The problem appears to descend from the integration of Facebook with iOS6, the new mobile operating system from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL). A spokesperson for Facebook revealed that the problem was only affecting certain smart phone models.
It appears the devices in trouble are mainly those running older versions of Android, the operating system from Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG). The firm did not reveal when a fix to the problem would be released, but said once the problem was fixed the devices should pull the correct email addresses for users.
This is, despite the apparent accidental nature of the problem, another high water mark for Facebook’s intrusion into user’s lives. If the company does not come up with an holistic solution for these infractions, the firm risks breaking the user experience it has tried so hard to build and perfect.
Facebook’s future may not be threatened by this incident, but the cumulative effect of glitches and design mistakes can devalue a brand over time. Facebook haas already presented its user base with several instances that demonstrated a certain disregard of user experience.
Several law suits have been filed by users complaining about the ways in which Facebook uses their information, design changes have always been received negatively, and the advent of Facebook editing contact lists without a mention to users.
Flight from social networks, like growth, is exponential. A person leaving makes it more likely that their friends will leave, and so on. If the company continues to weaken its brand through ill informed policy changes and intrusive glitches, Friendster’s fate awaits.
Facebook is now a publicly traded company, and with that comes responsibilities to shareholders. Those shareholders are likely to get out as quickly as posssible iof Facebook brand is weakened and the company starts to shed users from its services.
Facebook offers something right now that no other service can compete with. That monopoly is powerful and it is unlikely another company will be able to move it without adequate help from Facebook itself. This glitch, among other mistakes, helps those prospective competitors. Facebook needs to avoid such errors in future.