As Facebook prepares to showcase a new feature, commentators are asking if the social network is still relevant for teenagers in particular.
Facebook is launching a news feed on March 7 and has invited the world's media to come and see it. Although renowned for being vague when it comes to the months and days leading up to official press launches, Facebook is widely expected to reveal a new form of layout built around a grid or tile interface -- something that should be familiar to the 60 million or so consumers who have upgraded to the Windows 8 operating system.
It's not clear if the update will be across all versions of the site or only on the mobile and app versions. However, what is becoming apparent is that Facebook needs to do something with its site and its services if it wishes to retain its teenage user base.
A number of pieces in the mainstream media published over the weekend have each independently questioned why younger people appear to be deserting the site, or at least choosing not to log in on a regular basis. Business Insider quotes anecdotal evidence, such as that from Adam Ludwin, an app developer whose photo-sharing app Albumatic failed to connect with teenagers because of its overreliance on Facebook, plus the observations of Branch CEO Josh Miller who, in a blog on the subject, revealed that his 15-year-old sister and her friends had more or less turned their back on it because it no longer offers them a private forum for chatting with their friends and sharing information with select people. In other words, Facebook has lost its intimacy.
Over at the New York Times, columnist Nick Bilton is equally critical of the site, but more for its approach to promoted posts, which he feels is undermining one of the values on which the community was forged -- the democratic dissemination of information with others.
He recalls how when he used to share a column with his Facebook followers, the feedback would be immense -- hundreds of likes, comments and new followers. Then all of a sudden interaction dropped off to such an extent that likes, comments and reposts could be counted on two hands.
Surprised, he says he: "Paid Facebook $7 to promote my column to my friends using the company's sponsored advertising tool. To my surprise, I saw a 1,000% increase in the interaction on a link I posted, which had 130 likes and 30 reshares in just a few hours. It seems as if Facebook is not only promoting my links on news feeds when I pay for them, but also possibly suppressing the ones I do not pay for."