Way back in 2004 when Facebook first started, it was a social platform in the truest sense of the world. To open an account, you had to prove that you had an authorized college or university email address. When you registered, Facebook showed you groups of people at your school that had similar interests and you could find your friends by looking them up through their college. As Facebook opened up their platform to non-college users, their audience grew exponentially and with it came the advertisers, business pages, news pages, and clutter that it is today. Yet, Facebook still retained at least one feature, the Friends List Feed, that allowed users to parse their main friends’ list and only scroll through posts from one of their designated friend lists— for example, family, close friends, co-workers, etc.
According to Techcrunch, the end result was a much more personalized version of Facebook — one where you could catch up on the updates that were important to you, without the clutter from Facebook Pages, posts from acquaintances or those from friends whose updates you didn’t care to follow for any other reason.
Many users found that this was a great way to stay current with the people that they cared most about while ignoring repetitive news stories, annoying business ads and sales pitches designed as posts, and the borderline racist ramblings and incoherent political arguments of their extended family and old high school friends.
Now, Facebook is still allowing separate friends lists for posting (if you only want to share a post with a certain group), but gone is the ability to only read specific friends’ updates in their own separate News Feed within the Facebook app.
This move is a strong departure from January when Facebook announced its initiative to emphasize “people over brands.” In an Engadget story from January, Facebook promised that it would “start to prioritize posts from people you care about, like friends and family, over stories or videos from publishers.”
While users reported to be pleased with some of the changes, advertisers and media outlets that relied on Facebook to drive traffic were less thrilled. While Facebook has always been ultra-confidential about its advertising practices and revenue, their recent stock drop was partly due to lost revenue and slow user growth. Whether or not their “people over brands” strategy drove advertisers to take their business to other social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat can’t be positively determined, but the growth of those other social media platforms may just be the reminder that Facebook needs to remember that to make a profit, you need people- and people don’t want to be exploited for profit.