Happy Birthday Facebook! Here are Your Biggest Screw-Ups

By Chris Mills on at

Customary birthday behaviour will usually find the special one's eyes take on a thousand-yard stare as they stuff cake down their gullets, thinking back to their misdemeanors and wrongfootings of the past year. This introspection might occur thanks to an ambition to lift their game for the next year, but in order to do that, it's important to learn from mistakes. Facebook, here are yours:

 

1. Facebook Home

Facebook's biggest mistake is arguably its most recent -- Facebook Home. Launched to great fanfare with its own hardware, Facebook Home was meant to be Zuckerberg's big play into mobile, an alternative Android UI that sat on top of the regular Android experience, making everything more Facebook-y (and theoretically more slick).

Sadly, it sucked. Not just in our opinion, either -- to date, it's got a rather impressive 12,317 1-star reviews on the Google Play Store (out of 30,000 total reviews), and the custom HTC phone that sold with it pre-installed, the HTC First, sold a whopping 15,000 units in the US, and never even made it to our sunny shores.

 

2. The IPO

In May 2012, Facebook was first listed for trade on a public stock exchange, the NASDAQ. Shares were initially offered at $38, and while the price stayed more or less the same during the first day of trading, they had dropped to about $20 two months later, down a good 50 per cent on the initial price.

That, in turn, made investors unhappy. According to Bloomberg, retail investors lost around £400 million in the financial screw-up surrounding the IPO. Facebook is now facing over 40 lawsuits, pundits compared the IPO to illegal pump-and-dump schemes, and as icing on the cake, US regulators are said to be looking into the IPO. Not the most successful public debut, in other words.

 

3. The Home Address-Sharing-Scandal

Facebook and privacy have long been touchy topics, but nothing quite justified users' paranoia like this 2011 case of dodgy Facebook developers selling user data on to shady third parties.

In the breach, it was discovered that around a dozen 'small' third-party developers -- the people who make those awful farming/sheep-throwing games, in other words -- were selling user IDs, and all the associated data, onto third parties. Whilst probably technically legal, it wasn't particularly reassuring for a public generally very afraid of spammy phone calls in the middle of dinner.

Facebook responded by slapping a whopping six-month ban on developers involved, and making absolutely sure that none of the naughty boys would break the rules in the future.

 

4. The Snoop-On-Your-Friends'-Chat Screwup

Speaking of bad privacy breaches: back in 2010, a Facebook bug let clued-in users view a live stream of their friends' chat -- at least until the bug got fixed.

Thanks to a vulnerability in the 'Preview my Profile as Someone Else' feature, for a short space of time, Facebook users could see all the most intimate details of their Facebook friends -- like notifications, or even all the nasty behind-the-backs sniping that undoubtedly goes on between all your friends. Although the bug was promptly patched after being leaked on TechCrunch, it once again failed to endear Facebook to the more privacy-loving among our ranks.

 

5. Beacon

Another failed Facebook experiment, Beacon was a programme that auto-shared your online purchases with your friends, letting everyone else know about your excellent taste in (presumably) cheap HDMI cables, your weekly online shop and your interest in German midget-fetish porn.

Of course, the backlash from users was pretty severe -- particularly because there wasn't a good opt-out for the service. And, despite the revenue Beacon was pulling in for advertisers, the programme was discontinued in 2009, just a few years after its introduction, and Zuckerberg himself even made a grovelling apology to the masses.

 

6. The Redesigns

Of course, none of these mistakes holds the faintest MySpace-sized candle up to any of Facebook's redesigns. The Facebook community, which is lazy even to the point of not being able to poke people in real life, has rallied behind the bring-back-the-old-design banner pretty much every time Facebook's changed its layout.

Particularly in the last few years, when Timelines were introduced in place of the more traditional Wall, Facebook got mad to the extent of creating petitions to bring back the old version. Of course, all the died down in a few months once people had time to acclimatise to the new version, and now undoubtedly, the Facebook community will be ready to defend Timelines to the hilt, whenever the next redesign comes a-lumbering over the horizon.