If individuals receive e-mails they don’t want, they’re given the opportunity to take their names off of mailing lists (as part of 2003’s CAN-SPAM Act). The same is true in several other circumstances. If people don’t want telemarketers calling their house, they can put their names on the National Do Not Call Registry. But what are internet users to do when they find new and obtrusive features foisted upon them?
Case Study #1 – ‘Opt Out Done Right': Yahoo!
Yahoo!, as part of their new Mail Beta, allows users to utilize the old interface if they’re not satisfied with the new one. Similarly, users can switch to the new beta interface and use it without paying attention to the old, non-AJAX interface. Yahoo seems to have kept users happy with this move, but it may not be funneling enough users to the new, snazzier product. Clearly, this is because Yahoo gives its members a choice. It’s a question of better or worse, with the new Yahoo Mail Beta being a lot better than the old interface Yahoo provided. Still, in the interest of choice, Yahoo allows their userbase to make the decision on their own.
Yahoo! Gives Users the Option to Switch to a New Interface (Emphasis Added)
Case Study #2 – ‘You Belong to Us': Facebook
Facebook, however, has gone about their Application Platform a bit differently. Instead of giving their users the option to switch to the new Application Platform, Facebook has instead instituted the changes across every user account, not giving any of the users a say in the switch. Without a doubt, this quick, mandatory alteration has enabled Facebook to transform its millions of users into Platform users. The change allowed Facebook to force users to notice the new Platform. Without the official change, use of the API and the tools Facebook provided may have stagnated due to a slow-to-adapt userbase.
Some users, however, aren’t so happy about Facebook’s new system. Some are heralding the arrival of MySpace-type features, decrying the new Platform’s changes. Nobody can deny that the new Platform has made Facebook a busier place. The application sidebar, along with people’s profile pages, have suddenly become more and more cluttered with applications. While some users can minimize the applications on a case-by-case basis, there is no cure-all for the distraction the applications provide from Facebook’s general interface.
A Set of Minimized Apps on a Facebook Profile. While Smaller, the Applications Still Occupy Lots of Room.
Instead, I propose that Facebook creates an “opt-out” program. This way, users that aren’t thrilled with the Platform can remove it and go back to their normal Facebook browsing habits. Meanwhile, Facebook can continue to run the Application Platform on everyone else’s profiles. This way, the users unhappy with the changes wouldn’t have to deal with the hassle of applications on their profile or with the eyesore of applications on their friends’ profiles.
Will Facebook Allow Users to Opt Out of its Applications?
But will Facebook change? The company is notoriously responsive to user feedback, but I don’t think there’s enough of a movement to create the kind of change I’m talking about. As Facebook grows, the group opposed to the Platform may grow, forcing Facebook to adopt a similar solution to the one suggested above.