Recently, I had some less than ideal user experiences with respect to ads when using Facebook – both in the web flow as well as on the iPhone. Around the same time, I read an article on TechCrunch about how video ads may be entering the Facebook landscape. This exposure to increased ads on Facebook and the prospect of seeing an even more prominent role for ads in Facebook got me thinking about the future of Facebook.
First, let’s take a look at the ads I saw and why they bothered me. Starting with the iPhone, I saw the following:
As you can see above, this is two ads for the exact same company spanning the entire iPhone screen (and yes, I do have an iPhone 5 – which is even longer!). When I first saw this, I was pretty annoyed. Why would Facebook be showing me ads for the same product in repeat? Upon closer look, I realized that one of the ads is for the Match site, and the other is for the Match app, but still — the same principle applies, the two ads are too alike to be shown in repeat to the user.
Next, let’s move to the web flow and take a look at what I saw on Valentine’s Day. After signing in, here’s how my News Feed looked above the fold:
I took a scan around the page, and to my horror, there was zero content on this page that was useful or interesting for me. The page is completely filled with ads. Let’s take a closer look — with added markup from me in order to highlight each and all of the ads:
By my count, there are seven ads on this page, and zero original news stories that are interesting to me. That’s a pretty bad ratio. That’s 100% ads and 0% original content.
The day after I saw the page above, I saw this article on TechCrunch. To summarize, the article speculates that some day soon, Facebook will have auto-play video ads in the News Feed.
Suffice it to say that I was not pleased to read this article. My experience with ads on the Facebook iPhone app, the Facebook Web app, and the article speculating on video ads got me thinking about a quote from Mark Zuckerberg in the movie The Social Network:
// start quote
Mark Zuckerberg: Cause TheFacebook is cool and if we start installing pop-ups for Mountain Dew it’s not gonna be cool…
Eduardo Saverin: Well I wasn’t thinking Mountain Dew, but at some point, and I’m talking as the business end of the company, the site…
Mark Zuckerberg: We don’t even know what it is yet. We don’t know what it is. We don’t know what it can be. We don’t what it will be. We know that it is cool. That is a priceless asset I’m not giving up.
// end quote
While it’s not known if Mark Zuckerberg actually said these words, this would be a plausible thing for him to have said at the time. Moreover, he has been on record multiple times explicitly prioritizing product and user experience over profits.
So the important question is: how cool is Facebook today, and will it continue to stay that cool in the eyes of its users with the addition of more ads? For this user, at least, I wish the Facebook of 2013 (and the future) would be a little more like how it used to be — and that would be really cool.