Direct Line Blog

Facebook wants to be your everything - 'like' it or not

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The anticipation is palpable ahead of tomorrow's annual Facebook developer conference, with various, breathless media reports that the indomitable social net will unveil a platform enabling users to share their favorite music, TV shows and movies, effectively making your profile page a “primary entertainment hub,” as The New York Times put it. Reports have Facebook partnering with music-sharing sites like Spotify, Mog and Rhapsody and video sites Hulu and Netflix.

Such engagement-building innovations ought to have Facebook, its users and marketers all smiles. Yet this being Facebook, the much-vaunted media hub isn't the only reason the social net is making news. Bad news.

Because Facebook took to tinkering with its design – again – unveiling a whole new look today. And again, users are lining up to blast it. A revamped news feed has Facebook devotees (including this one) and tech bloggers seething, and with good reason. In its efforts to be more user-friendly, Facebook has, once again, created a big, confusing mess. And the peanut gallery is unanimous on this one. “Take a look at your Facebook page today … and let us know if you laughed or smashed your screen,” cracked ABC News' tech blog. “Where's that ‘dislike' button when you need it?” fumed The Baltimore Sun. A Mashable poll had 74% of respondents saying they hate, hate, hate the redesign.

Of course, every time Facebook makes these tweaks, everybody rants – at first. As The Los Angeles Times points out, howls greeted the rollout of the first news feed back in 2006 – and yet, that would eventually become one of Facebook's most popular features.

Here's the thing. Brands like Orbitz, Clearasil, Sallie Mae and the many others that have made Facebook either a component or the core of their marketing campaigns count on the devotion of those 750 million users – users who, obviously, are increasingly frustrated by these “innovations.” Meanwhile, with Google this week opening up its previously invitation-only social net Google+ to everyone, that challenger looms larger than ever. (Maybe.)

With truly revolutionary developments like the media hub, why does Facebook insist upon angering its users and courting terrible press with another nonsensical, maddening retooling?

UPDATE, Sept. 22: Facebook teams with Netflix, Hulu and others on new class of media-sharing apps, reports Variety.

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