More on Facebook and the Challenge of Staying Cool

Earlier this week, I wrote a post on the increased usage of ads on Facebook and how they are contributing to the perception that Facebook is no longer cool. Seemingly on cue, Blake Ross, a director of product management at Facebook, has announced that he is leaving the company due to similar sentiments. 

Here is an excerpt from his Goodbye note as reported by TechCrunch:

I’m leaving because a Forbes writer asked his son’s best friend Todd if Facebook was still cool and the friend said no, and plus none of HIS friends think so either, even Leila who used to love it, and this journalism made me reconsider the long-term viability of the company.

While it was quite incidental that this news broke only a couple days after my blog post, it did get me thinking again about why I thought Facebook was losing it’s cool factor and what it could possibly do to regain it.

Was it just the increased usage of ads that contributed to this shift, or was there something more? In short, I believe the answer has to do with simplicity. In the early days of Facebook, the product was very simple — and specifically, the UX was quite simple. In fact, one could reasonably argue that what propelled them to leapfrog MySpace and become the only Social Network that mattered was directly related to the cleanliness and simplicity of Facebook and how much better that was than the mess and clutter of MySpace. These days, there are rumblings that Facebook is turning into MySpace. And the funny thing about such a proclamation is that it could be made both figuratively (it is the super power but it may be replaced one day soon) or literally (It used to be a clean and simple product but it is now messy and cluttered).

So what should Facebook do next? That’s the important question. It’s certainly easy for me to sit here on the outside and critique them. But the reason I critique them is because I think that they still have the potential to be cool, and more importantly, they still have the potential to achieve Mark Zuckerberg’s mission of making the world more open and connected. I’m going to continue to critique, but I’m also rooting for them to succeed long-term.