Software, Hardware, Silverware

Entries tagged: Facebook

Oh, Facebook.

Ads Are Coming


Our aim is to make any advertisements you see feel as natural to Instagram as the photos and videos many of you already enjoy from your favorite brands. After all, our team doesn’t just build Instagram, we use it each and every day. We want these ads to be enjoyable and creative in much the same way you see engaging, high-quality ads when you flip through your favorite magazine.

The sad part is they could have had ads all along and charged $5 to remove them and they’d have made money all along.

The Lonely Island

At the time of writing, I have 87 friends on Facebook. That’s too many. Facebook is different from Twitter in that you’re encouraged (and it makes sense) to befriend only those people whom you’re actually friends with. It’s in the name of the action, really: “follow” vs. “friend”1. Are there really 87 people that’d I’d consider friends? Are there really 87 people that I care enough about to want to know how they spent their Friday night? Doubtful. I’m not antisocial, I’m realistic. While every individual’s optimal “friend” count will vary, it’s unlikely you have as many close relationships as your Facebook page would indicate.

I’m not saying you have to speak with your Facebook friends every day. Not even every month. It is essential, however, that have some minimum level of closeness with them2. Otherwise, the service is all-but useless. If every time you login to Facebook, there’s a hundred new items in your newsfeed, you aren’t going to read all of that. Even if I was friends with the most interesting people in the universe, I wouldn’t read all of that. By opening our definition of and exaggerating the list of people we call “friend”, we are rendering the Facebook service useless to ourselves. What was meant to be a service to help us connect with friends when not together morphs into an irritating stream of crap we don’t care about.

The First Step is Acceptance

As I stated at the beginning of this essay, I’m prey to “friending” non-friends as well. Why do we do it? Why do we accept every friend request that comes our way, and why do we obsessively page through Facebook’s suggestions looking for new friends? Is it a status item, to proclaim how many friends you have on Facebook as if you deserve a medal? I think so. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t heard kids brag about the number of “friends” they have. OK. So an artificially-high number makes us feel better about ourselves.

My stepmother has nearly 1,400 “friends” on Facebook. No, really. Right now you’re thinking she’s super cool, right? I’m sure she knows all of those people. I’m sure she wants to know what every one of those 1,389 people had for dinner. I’m sure she’d be happy to have each of those people over for dinner tomorrow night. Just sure of it. Now that artificially-high number makes us question her3. But she’s so popular! She has lots of friends, she must be so friendly. I want to be just like her. That’s what we’re all thinking, right? No? Oh, then let’s keep reading.

“But I would never brag about that,” we say. “Other people, though, they do and if they see I only have sixty friends they’ll think less of us.” Fair point. Well, not really. Who gives a shit? If we prescribe to that, than we’re no better than the “other people”. Look, anyone lowly enough to troll Facebook seeking people with low “friend” counts to build themselves up does not deserve your attention. You’re a above that. You’re a “go-getter”, or some other inspirational shit. You’re outside climbing mountains while that guy’s inside checking his AOL account for Target coupons. You don’t need to be ashamed of your number, you should be proud. A low number is a symbol of a healthy human being, I swear to it.

If we’ve accepted that Facebook is for our actual, honest-to-god, “IRL” friends, we’ve accepted an enormous “friend” count doesn’t reflect anything good, and we’ve accepted that you don’t care what “they” think. What are we to do about it?

The Test

We’re going to purge.

Remember that “minimum” I was telling you about? The threshold of closeness for which we should feel toward someone in order to establish a connection on Facebook? While you’re certainly free to decide that for yourself, I’ve devised a simple (if difficult and lengthy to explain) test we can do quickly in our heads as we scroll through our “friends” list, trigger fingers poised over the “unfriend” button.

OK, let’s get started. You’re laying on the couch (do people really do that?), I’m sitting in the expensive leather chair. Don’t worry, this session won’t cost you too much. I’ll need you to picture yourself on a deserted island. Deserted, but you are not alone. Imagine you were en route to some exotic locale, perhaps on a top-secret mission for M, and your plane has gone down. Every one has survived (let’s not get too dark) but you are all very much alone and fear that rescue could take weeks. It was a standard airline flight, though, so the passengers and crew are a bunch of random people you’ve never met before4. Random, all except for one. You had no idea they were on the flight, but that one person is (stepping back to reality now) the person you’re considering for approval for or dismissal from your friends list.

Here’s the test: do you approach that person? Is he/she the first person you rush to help? There are a hundred and fifty people on that island, and you aren’t going to be bonding with all of them. Are you and that person going to help each other to survive? If the answer is to all of the above yes, that person stays on your list. If the answer is no, they’re gone.

The Locust Swarm

This test, I understand, sounds ridiculous. It’s an absurd situation that (hopefully) we’ll never find ourselves in. But it is useful, I think, and a pretty accurate way to determine if our potential candidate is worthy. The question is: is our relationship with the candidate close enough that we’d band together in a sea of strangers? With some, the decision is easy. Our best friends, our boy- or girlfriends: no-brainers. Our sisters, our brothers, our moms and dads: easy-peasy. There are no-brainers on both sides of the test, of course. I probably wouldn’t need to run my stepmother through the test if she ever sent me a request.

For the cases right in the middle, though, that’s where this test is useful. That guy from your chemistry class junior year, the one who sat in front of you for half the year and without fail asked you to borrow a pencil every single day? He probably won’t make the list. The girl who had to sit behind him for the other half of the year, the one you exchanged sympathies with at the lunch table? She probably makes it. The test is effective in weeding out people who irritate us, but isn’t so exclusive that amicable people we’ve acquainted with and enjoy the company of get cut.

As you descend your friends list, if you’re like I was the first time and you have a lot of “friends”, you’ll be cutting out a lot. The first couple are hard, but it gets easier. The people we’re cutting are people who won’t notice they’ve been defriended, and if they do notice, they won’t care. If we extrapolate, they’re really being done a favor. If they do not belong on our list, we don’t belong on theirs.

It’s worth mentioning this the test isn’t strictly for purging. We should use it whenever a new friend request comes in, and we should be sparring with your sending of requests. I, for instance, don’t send any. That’s pretentious of me, I realize, but I can live with it. As I said at the start, I have too many friends on Facebook. I’ve used the test before5 and I’ll do it again. I’ll be the first to admit it’s easy to let a few less-than-stellar candidates slip through the net, but it’s just as easy to boot them.

Keeping your internet life in order can be time-consuming, but keeping it in order is one less stressor that you’ll have to deal with. Find a strategy. Follow it. Rinse. Repeat.

  1. While Facebook did institute “following” as an alternative to “friending” awhile ago, you’d be forgiven for not knowing about it until now. ↩︎

  2. We’ll talk about defining that minimum is a bit later. ↩︎

  3. Don’t, really. ↩︎

  4. Some of them probably “friends” of my stepmother. ↩︎

  5. If you’d like to see the test in action, send me a Facebook request. Get denied. It’ll be fun and motivational. ↩︎

Google Closes Facebook’s Loophole

Aaron Souppouris for The Verge:

After Facebook was found to be updating users without using the Google Play store’s update mechanisms, Google has clarified its terms and conditions to ensure no other developers attempt to circumvent its store.


The Verge Reviews the Facebook Phone

Dieter Bohn (emphasis added):

A lot of people have been waiting and hoping for a manufacturer to finally buck this big-phone trend on Android, and the First does just that, with a [pause, build anticipation…] 4.3-inch 720p display.

So bucked.

Home Turf

Matt Drance:

Facebook Home is a trojan horse designed to steal the Android experience, and the Android user base, right out of Google’s hands. The majority of speculation over the last year or two had been that Facebook was working on its own mobile OS. It may well be, but this move is so much smarter on a number of fronts.

I haven’t written anything about Facebook home because truthfully I haven’t found it very interesting. My friends aren’t, shall we say, interesting enough for Facebook Home to pique my intrigue. This, however, is interesting. A company I don’t like very much (and I won’t name names) has screwed over another company I don’t like very much. That’s pretty funny.

The Tax of ‘New’

Julie Zhuo, of Facebook:

This is how good, simple products become quite the opposite. Like a Katamari ball gunning for a record score, your product picks up more and more features until one day, your typical user opens up your app to see 4 different toolbars and 50 icons littered across the UI. Or they look through your list of services and have to wade through 32 line items spread across 7 different pages. Or they click to open a menu and are presented with 20 different options. Your app becomes one of the ones that my mom needs to call me to figure out how to use (“Honey, what does ‘release and trust sender’ mean?”).

That’s what Apple has been so very good at in the past: avoiding new for the sake of new. It’s why we only get a new iPhone once per year, why we didn’t get an iPhone with a larger screen until last fall, and why we won’t see Apple’s watch until it is ‘insanely great’1.

  1. This iterative design approach is best covered by John Gruber’s oft-referenced Macworld piece on the subject. ↩︎

One Billion People on Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg:

Helping a billion people connect is amazing, humbling and by far the thing I am most proud of in my life.

That’s ⅙ the planet. Holy shit.

Facebook Buys Instagram

God dammit.

Instagram’s Business Model

Kevin Systrom, CEO of Instagram:

27 million people is not too shabby, but it’s nowhere near the scale you need to make a massively large business.



Instagram’s New Experiment: Open Up the API for Third-Party Uploads

Federico Viticci, on Hipstamatic and Instagram’s new collaboration:

What I really think could be huge, both for the companies involved and the users, is the API that Hipstamatic is leveraging here. Hipstamatic is doing the right thing: sharing has become a fundamental part of the mobile photo taking process, and it would be foolish to ignore Instagram’s popularity and come up with a whole new network.

This is good, though I don’t think this collaboration with Hopstamatic necessarily infers the a future opening of the Instagram API. Honestly, I’d like to see Instagram keep this sort of thing selective.

But I still don’t see how Instagram intends to make money.

Instagram Updated to 2.1

Instagram was updated yesterday, bringing a refinished UI, a new filter, and a new feature called “Lux”. Lux makes photos look like they were taken using HDR, even a little more extremely than the functionality built-in to the camera app, and can be used with or without filters.

Also changed was the notification behavior; now, when you tap or slide on a notification, it takes you right to that photo. Now if those notifications would disappear once you’ve acted on them…

Inside Instagram

Mat Honan1 at Gizmodo:

Twitter was nearly undone by scaling problems. Just as it began to really take off, in 2008 as it got into the millions of users territory, it began breaking down with regularity. The Fail Whale was everyone’s least favorite mammal. And that was almost entirely due to Twitter’s back-end, which was originally designed as an extremely simple program that ran on an open-source application framework. As it turned out, that didn’t scale.

Mat Honan takes an inside look at Instagram. The whole article’s worth a read, but I’d like to pay special attention to the above passage.

Instagram is my favorite social network. And it’s great that they’ve learned from some of Twitter’s early mistakes. Unfortunately, they seemed to have looked past Twitter’s biggest early mistake: profits. It worries me because I know that soon Instagram’s investors are going to start throwing around that scary word, profitability. I don’t know, and I worry that Kevin Systrom doesn’t know, what the answer is going to be. Hopefully it’s not a Dickbar.

I think the best thing Instagram could have done was to put ads in the free app from the beginning, and charged a dollar or two dollars for an ad-free version. That being said, putting banner ads into the app is pretty much off the table at this point. The outcry over ads suddenly appearing in a previously ad-free app, though free, would probably be too much for the young company. That being said, I do hope and I would request (if I were in a position to do so) that whatever revenue scheme Instagram’s team does dream up has a paid “opt-out” function. I really want to see this one succeed.

  1. A.K.A. the only Gizmodo writer worth reading. ↩︎