Just seven years ago Facebook didn't exist. Today over 25% of the world's internet using population (over 500,000,000 million people) are active on the site each month. Facebook captures our attention in a way only a handful of services ever have before.
The film The Social Network chronicled part of their story with a scrappy, passionate founder who made gut design decisions
about human behavior that had huge impacts. This afternoon Julie Zhou visits us
to talk about how Facebook uses data
to drive many of its decisions today, by the numbers.
Facebook definitely has the numbers, but are they still capable of making decisive gut decisions? Can they change the world again by focusing on data for people
or will their next big move need to be a decision inspired deep down by its intuition
Earlier this week our own Chris Michel pointed to the recent redesign of the News Feed
--different format and with even smaller font. Was this decision data-driven? It's interesting to look back and note that the News Feed itself, a feature we wouldn't live without today, was a risky gut decision for Facebook to launch. It triggered protests on the site
and even picketing outside Facebook's offices.
, Founder and CEO of Joie de Vivre Hotels and inspirational speaker, pointed out that the status update
gives a unique window into people's emotional well-being and that Facebook actually already tracks this with their Happiness index
. Chip wants to know:
What does Facebook use to create that Happiness metric? Do they see happiness as more of a practice [something you actively work at] than a pursuit? What means could they use to track practice vs. pursuit?
points to Facebook's decision to maintain a a'oesparse and simple design with no customization
, put them in stark contrast to the other sites vying for our attention like MySpace and Friendster. Josh Elman
, former Facebook Platform guy and current Product Manager at Twitter, cites tagging friends in photos
as their biggest gut design decision:
Back in 2006, face recognition was all the craze. Identifying faces makes photos more personal. But Facebook realized that instead of figuring it out, you could just ask users to tag other people and you'd get an amazing web of interactions and reasons to share photos. It transformed the experience of photos.
Similarly, Mrinal would like to know, "What percentage of total pageviews is photos?" After all, photos literally put the "face"' in Facebook, something Julie herself cited on the NYTimes
At Facebook... the approach is to try to replicate real-world social norms by emphasizing the human qualities of conversation. People's faces, real names and brief biographies are placed next to their public comments.
And with the surge in mobile usage
of Facebook, Josh also mentioned he loved to know:
How different are the behaviors on mobile vs web in terms of adding comments, photos, and liking? Facebook's one of the rare services that has a strong mobile and web presence.
What's on people's minds, their photos of each other, and the mobile context they interact within are all huge reasons why Facebook continues to be such a force in people's lives. What gut decisions would you say have made the biggest difference to you?
Looking ahead, how could Facebook do better? Certainly there are opportunities to help people connect and interact together with even more meaning. If there was one piece of Facebook data you think would unlock an answer, what would it be?