It's now a few months since the Facebook craze swept through my real-life social network. Certainly the adoption rate has been helped by the me-too effect, and now we're all on board it's almost as much fun as Twitter! Adding contacts is a breeze, although I wish I could link to a basic profile of someone after a search, to make sure they are the person I'd like to add as a friend.
In fact there are several areas where it's broken. The user experience is far from intuitive at times, especially when it comes to managing applications. And several of the applications I've tried to add have been broken before I could get them added. Obviously this isn't always the fault of the Facebook team, but users won't care. I often find myself hunting around the page for the link I need - always a bad sign. Also, privacy settings aren't configurable - anyone added as a contact sees everything uploaded. What if I only want my family to see pictures of the family event? I'd go elsewhere, of course.
And that list is just for starters.
The founder of Facebook, 24 year old Mark Zuckerberg, claims to be in it for the long term (which is why he's not selling to Yahoo! or Google or anyone else for that matter), and it's hard not to admire his tenacity to date, arrogant ageist comments notwithstanding. The opening up of the Facebook platform to the developers was seen as visionary, but this has had mixed results from my (user) perspective.
I think there's a tipping point coming. Users will tolerate these shortcomings so long as they're continuing to get enjoyment from the site and there isn't anything better out there. If you don't give customers what they want in this environment, someone else will come along and do it instead. And, if that better thing is easy to try out, and switch to, then Facebook has a problem. And I think it's on it's way sooner than Zuckerberg might think.
It's not hugely surprising to hear that both Yahoo! and Google are working on next generation social networking tools (Google already owns Orkut, although this hasn't had much success outside South America). And these are just the projects we know about. My advice to Zuckerberg: get off the lecture circuit, get back in the lab and improve your product....the competition is on your tail...