Facebook Admits New Layout Has Been An April Fool's Day Joke!
After several weeks of forcing a new, (and by all accounts, less functional) layout on all of their members, (almost instigating a site-wide revolt), and, after suffering a huge downturn in site usage, Facebook, (the internet's largest and most successful social networking site), today announced that the new layout was just a well-planned April Fool's Day Joke!
Many in the media have wondered if this was really the case, or had Facebook just been caught with their pants down, and simply decided to take advantage of this "social holiday", to make the changes that so many have been desperately crying for over the last few weeks since the re-design roll-out. "At this point they'll do anything to save face(book)!" one pundit quipted.
In early March 2009, Facebook announced that it would be migrating its members to a new facebook layout. The announcement itself caused little stir, but when it was implemented over the course of a week or two, (one continent at a time), the negative reaction was immediate and overwhelming. Based on the ridiculous functionality of the new layout....members were lead to believe that the new the changes were made to compete with social site rival "Twitter", (despite the fact that Twitter is only a fraction of the size, and has far less functionality). This should have been the first tip off that Facebook wasn't really planning on keeping these changes long-term. Other clues should have been that there were very few settings that could actually be adjusted in the new design, demonstrating that both, very little time had been put into the code (to create the ruse in time for the Mid-March deadline), and insuring that members would almost certainly dislike the new layout.
If this really was just one big April Fools Day joke, Mark Zuckerberg and his team has to be given full credit for keeping this secret from their millions of members, while they let the ire and frustration grow to almost unbelievable heights. In the last few weeks many groups have sprung up specifically designed to let facebook know exactly how much members dislike the new layout, and even an application "Vote on the New layout" was created, in which over 1.3 million votes have been cast, and over 94% of the votes have been negative. Rumors are now circulating that even this application was created by the facebook pranksters, (although it's almost certain that the results didn't need to be rigged).
While Facebook claims that they expected a backlash, they admit that they had no idea just how crazy the site's members would get. Said a relieved Mark Zuckerberg at a press conference in Silicon Valley earlier today "We didn't even know if we could keep it up until April 1st, and we're really glad our members have been patient with us". Defending the prank, he explained "Can you really blame us for doing it?....How often in your life do you get the chance to prank 175 million people?" When asked about all the negative feedback they received Zuckerberg said, "This has also been extremely educational for us, and we learned just how much our members love our site, and more importantly, we found out exactly "what" our members love [and don't]...We've had so many good ideas flood in as a result of this that as soon as we get the site back to normal, we'll have a to-do list that should keep us busy for months!"
So angry were some users that in an effort to keep the ruse going until the big reveal today....Facebook even sacrificed one of their staff (Facebook's Director of Product, Chris Cox) sending him on mission of mercy, claiming that facebook was reviewing and would be responding to feedback from its users:
Now that the jig is up, members are left wondering if Chris was in on the joke all along, or if he had just been sent to like a lamb to the slaughter to respond to the masses. Some have even suggested that "Chris Cox" is not even a real person, and merely just a pseudonym created by Facebook's April Fool's Day Joke Crew (AFDJ Crew), just to minimize the impact, while still keeping the joke going.
Now that the hoax is over, Facebook has announced that over the next week or two, they will be migrating all users back to their previous site incarnation, (which was widely recognized and accepted as at least a slight improvement over its oldest version, (in which profiles were becoming overrun by the addition of multiple applications)). In the press release that accompanied the press conference Facebook has also assured members that all changes in future will be rolled out one at time, and will be small, allowing user to discover new widgets and settings as they go. This "Easter Egg" style of discovering new changes, has worked very well for Facebook historically, continuously adding functionality (slowly) to their site, (and almost always for the better). This drastic change to the way Facebook usually implements changes to its site helped ensure that the "new homepage hoax" would deliver the shock required for the joke to work, and yet might have been their undoing had anyone caught on, or spilled the beans early.
Facebook took a big risk with this prank, caused a huge media frenzy, but most agree....as long as the changes (back) are made quickly, it's likely that Facebook and all of its users will benefit from the overall experience, (plus they've now got thousands of free suggestions).
Well played Facebook! You got us all good! Thanks.
The only question remaining is...What will they do next year to top it?!?!
April 1st, 2009
Mark MacLean is a frequent contributor to his own life, and a certified pot-stirrer.
(Happy April 1st, 2009 everyone...and please share this with a facebook friend)
To read more see his open letter to Facebook: Open Letter to Facebook