We’ve repeatedly covered Facebook since the announcement of the Facebook Platform, and we have noted that it’s very important for Facebook to maintain a clear difference between themselves and MySpace in the upcoming battle for social networking supremacy. The Application Platform, however, makes it increasingly harder for them to steer clear of the same traps MySpace fell into.
While the majority of Facebook’s users don’t want MySpace’s features, there’s a growing and burgeoning minority that seems hell bent on bringing MySpace to Facebook so they can finally merge their two social networks. It seems as if the most vocal proponents of autoplaying music and user customizable pages are those that have come directly from MySpace to join all of their friends on Facebook. As new transplants, they’re finding it hard to adjust without MySpace’s customizable crap (call it what you will, but this is how the majority of Facebook users feel) and feel it necessary to bring all of that to Facebook.
Facebook’s key feature has always been their smooth and well-designed website. MySpace, on the other hand, is known for crowded pages and user chosen themes. While MySpace has brought up a thriving ecosystem of websites that spit out the HTML to customize these pages, its userbase suffers from slow loading pages and numerous eyesores. Facebook users have always prided themselves on Facebook’s elegance, instead opting to standardize the design scheme in an effort to maintain some sort of graphic decency on the website.
Facebook’s Glitter Text: Ruining a User Interface Near You
The Application Platform, however, has allowed outside developers to change the Facebook user experience. Profiles have become far more cluttered with apps, but they remain organized because of Facebook’s grid-based design. Applications like Glitter Text (Facebook account required) threaten to interrupt Facebook’s design serenity and turn it into a veritable MySpace design competitor. Few Facebook members want that, but, unfortunately, Facebook hasn’t provided a way to disable certain applications on users’ profiles.
Music and Autoplay
So far, Facebook has held its ground on the autoplay issue. Upon visiting MySpace pages, lots of users are subjected to long waits as crowded backgrounds and music load as the profile page does. Facebook has attempted to keep their interface and user experience pure by ensuring users have to click on Flash objects in order to make them play. This approach seems to have worked well so far. Complicated applications like iLike’s lets users do more than just play music. As they’d originally planned, applications like that add additional functionality not seen in other social networks like MySpace.
Whereas MySpace only allows a widget, Facebook enhances the user experience of both the profile owner and the profile browser. iLike, which has practically become Facebook’s official music player (because of the number of users that have adopted it), faces competition from a rather simple application, the independently developed Audio. Similar to MySpace’s music player, Audio does one thing. Unlike MySpace, however, it’s rather simple, and its “click to play” nature makes it rather unobtrusive.
Facebook’s Simple Audio Application
The End Game
Watching the social network I love become more cluttered isn’t an enjoyable experience. Such growth experiences, however, often lend themselves to growing pains, and Facebook is no exception. As outside developers learn to take advantage of Facebook’s new features, they’ll find themselves faced with the option to clutter profiles or to help them stay clean. I hope, for the sake of every user out there, that Facebook stays vigilant about protecting their user interface.