The evolution of Facebook

facebookA lot has changed since Facebook started out as the superior alternative to MySpace and the gateway for everyone and their mother to enter into the world of social networking.

Initially a way for people to communicate with friends without having to call or text, it soon became a way to reconnect with old friends, make new friends, chat, work and collaborate. Like any good thing, it evolved.

Several years into the life of Facebook, it started to undergo periodic changes that were aesthetic in nature, while sometimes introducing new features that were usually polarizing. So much so that the response became the subject of many, many memes.

facebook meme

A Google search of “Facebook change meme”

But as its evolution continues, it seems to be less about serving its users and more about serving advertisers – and itself. Or maybe its target user has shifted. Maybe that was the plan all along. To build an empire of devoted users who would one day be the audience of a burst of ads hoping to win my attention.

To clarify, I’m no enemy of advertising – especially online advertising, which tends to be customized to what I am likely to be interested in based on my internet history and geographic location. Ads and commercials don’t offend me. I have enough free will to determine whether or not I want to follow through on purchasing a product or service shoved in my face via an ad.

Last year, word spread that Facebook was considering implementing video advertisements into news feeds. Most annoyingly, these videos would be set on auto-play – a feature that has given me reason to actively avoid websites before because they are intrusive and distracting. However, apparently these video ads would be muted, giving users the option to turn on the volume and watch the approximately 15 second ad. That would be more okay with me.

A Huffington Post article posted several days ago is suggesting that Facebook’s algorithms have changed enough that your posts and statuses may not be reaching everyone on your friends list, lessening the amount of likes and replies you may normally have received. Supposedly, this may have something to do with Facebook’s financial strategy as a way to increase revenue. If you want your posts to reach more of your friends, you’ll have to pay for it.

Rumours have abound over the years that Facebook would start charging for users to use it. They have always been shot down but it seems the paying-aspect could come at a different angle. Much like how using dating networking sites are free where only some of the features are available to non-paying users, the same could happen to Facebook.

Is this necessarily a bad thing?

facebook likeThe answer to that depends on how Facebook rolls out any sort of charges for what it offers. Most people I know use Facebook for communicating with friends and keeping in touch with contacts at distances. We rely on it because it was a convenient alternative to telephone calls, letters, emails and instant messaging programs.

Facebook has become a major part of how we communicate. Workplaces and schools rely on itfor group exchanges and collaboration. You sometimes need it to participate on other sites – for user verification or authorization. In a lot of ways, the contribution of Facebook has been a position one.

But things evolve and Facebook is a business and like all businesses, profits are to be made. These probable and likely changes are but for this one platform. If we don’t like them and aren’t willing to pay, there are alternatives. Granted, none of the alternatives are quite as powerful. Most people I know use Facebook while many others sporadically participate in an array of other social networking sites so communicating with them would mean signing up and actively using multiple sites.

These possible changes, while predictable, are still disheartening when users and supporters of social media, such as myself, have to accept the influx of “I told you so” from those who opted out at day one.

Of course, all of this comes with the natural notion that we could simply go back to face-to-face communication and leave social networking in the dust – as is the typical jaded response always present during any discussion that focuses on a negative of social media. Needless to say, this is always besides the point anyway.

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