Reports of This Tech #Fail Have Been Greatly Exaggerated
It happens all the time.
A powerful player in tech (read: Facebook, Snapchat, Google, even Microsoft) makes a change to a core feature in a core product and…
EVERYONE. FREAKS. OUT.
Users Will Say Things Like:
They’ll never use it again
That everything has been completely ruined
And they petition the founder/company to return things to the way they were before
Why does this happen?
Because (most) people absolutely hate change. They hate change because it forces them to spend effort to learn a new “normal” before they can reap the same value from the product that they received before.
Most people are unable to see far enough past the pain of “new” to the future world of “easier”, “faster”, and “better.”
Most people aren’t early adopters.
What do CEOs/Founders do when their users freak out in response to new changes?
Sometimes they stand tall and even get stronger in response to this adversity.
But much more often they back down, scared to lose their loyal base.
Let’s take a look at a few times when founders stood tall, kept their conviction, and ultimately proved that the stories of their company’s #fail were in fact greatly exaggerated.
The Top 5 Greatly Exaggerated #Fails
5. Facebook Timeline
On September 22nd, 2011 Mark Zuckerberg introduced “Timeline,” which he described at the time as “all your stories, all your apps and a new way to express who you are.”
TechCrunch: “Crazy and kind of creepy” https://techcrunch.com/2011/09/22/how-to-enable-facebook-timeline/
“I’m going back to MySpace”: https://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/extreme-overreactions-to-the-new-facebook
ZDNet: “There is a hate in the air that cannot be ignored” http://www.zdnet.com/article/why-do-facebook-users-hate-change/
Daily Mail: “Creepy but Beautiful” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2074554/Facebook-timeline-feature-Mixed-reaction-latest-changes.html
Daily Mail: “Feature is supported by just 1 in 10 users” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2093811/Facebooks-controversial-timeline-feature-supported-just-users.html
Huffington Post: “ […] Public outcry against the changes have already led to a number of ways to reverse the features” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/21/facebook-changes-old-facebook_n_974517.html
Zuckerberg “Standing Tall”
“For sure, they’ll be feedback. So we definitely listen and we try to get feedback… from people who are actually engaging with the service. But also at the same time, the service is just moving quickly, and we want to be innovative and keep on building new things. And we want to refresh old versions and roll out new versions of things.”
Less than 5 months after releasing Timeline, Facebook filed for their IPO.
2 months after that, they reached 900 million active users and in May 2012, they went public at a valuation of $114 billion.
4. Facebook Wall
In 2008, Facebook released one of their first controversial features, the Facebook Wall. According to Carolyn Abram, a product manager:
“The Wall now surfaces the most recent and relevant information — in the form of posts of stories — about you. We believe that having a constant stream of information, or “feed” is the most effective way to learn about and keep up with friends.”
1.7MM users “protested” against Facebook Wall: https://www.dailydot.com/debug/old-facebook-profiles-news-feeds/ and http://www.pcworld.com/article/161752/facebook_users_against_redesign.html
Zuckerberg “Standing Tall”
“The new Facebook home page is one step in the continued evolution of the site, designed to give people more ways to share and filter all types of content, such as status updates, photos, videos, notes and more. We are listening carefully to what people are saying about the new home page through a variety of channels and are committed to using it to inform how we build and improve the site for everyone.”
Facebook Monthly Active users grew from 145MM in 2008 to 360MM in 2009 and 608MM in 2010.
The introduction of the Wall feature gave people a dramatically easier way to share with and consume content from their networks.
3. Instagram Redesign
In May 2016, Instagram released a redesign of both its iconic logo and its app. As expected, this wholesale change was met with fierce opposition from many of its very loyal users.
“The new @instagram update kind of stresses me out.”: https://twitter.com/Bianca__Rae/status/730413329693319168
“I usually embrace change but the @instagram update reminds me of Windows 95 & the icon looks like 3rd place in a middle school competition.”: https://twitter.com/DrinkingCraft/status/730413126634459136
“Instagram’s new logo looks like the Phillies Phanatic took LSD and wants to know why it’s missing an eye.”: https://twitter.com/peterallenclark/status/730404986316853248
BGR “The entire world is still tearing Instagram’s horrible new look apart”: http://bgr.com/2016/05/12/instagram-new-icon-criticism-funny/
Instagram “Standing Tall”
“The Instagram community has evolved over the past five years from a place to share filtered photos to so much more — a global community of interests sharing more than 80 million photos and videos every day. Our updated look reflects how vibrant and diverse your storytelling has become.”
In December 2016, Instagram had 600MM MAUs, with 50% YoY user growth.
Although not independent, Instagram is valued between $60–80 billion or roughly 25% of Facebook’s market cap.
2. Apple iPad
On January 27th, 2010, Apple introduced iPad, “A revolutionary device for browsing the web, reading and sending emails, enjoying photos, and much more.”
Cnet: “5 Things the iPad is Missing”: https://www.cnet.com/news/five-things-the-ipad-is-missing/
“ Screaming masses calling for Steve Jobs’ public lynching just because the iPad doesn’t have a built-in USB port”: http://apcmag.com/turns-out-the-ipad-does-support-usb-devices.htm/
Jobs “Standing Tall”
“We’re trying to make great products for people, and we have at least the courage of our convictions to say we don’t think this is part of what makes a great product, we’re going to leave it out. Some people are going to not like that, they’re going to call us names […] but we’re going to take the heat [and] instead focus our energy on these technologies which we think are in their ascendancy and we think are going to be the right technologies for customers. And you know what? They’re paying us to make those choices […] If we succeed, they’ll buy them, and if we don’t, they won’t, and it’ll all work itself out.”
As we know now, the iPad revolutionized the previously minuscule tablet industry. Beginning with a still impressive 3MM units sold in Q3 2010, the iPad peaked at an amazing 26MM units sold in Q1 2014.
1. Microsoft “Ribbon”
With the launch of Microsoft Office 2007, the software company made a dramatic decision to redesign their core menu structure from tall drop-downs to the “Ribbon.” This redesign was intended to better highlight existing and new features when and where users needed them.
Slate: “They changed everything!” http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2007/01/office_politics.html
“Shock and dismay” is a phrase well suited to describe the reaction of many intermediate and advance Word users upon their introduction to the Ribbon user interface (UI) in Word 2007/2010. http://gregmaxey.com/word_tip_pages/customize_ribbon_main.html
RedmondMag: “People will get used to the new interface, but at major efforts in time, training and cost.” and “ Power users say it takes too much time and patience to learn.” https://redmondmag.com/articles/2007/10/01/word-2007-not-exactly-a-musthave.aspx
Gates “Standing Tall”
“With Office 2007, the Fluent UI with the ribbon represented a major risk that Microsoft took, after all, for many years that File, Edit, View menu that we had created in our Windows and Mac applications, that was the standard way things were done. And yet we saw that that was hiding the functionality, the fact that you had those drop-downs were getting longer, and longer, and you weren’t even sure which menu things were underneath. It meant that many of the features we were being asked to put in our applications were features that were already in the applications.
And so we said, well, if we don’t change the UI, what is it we’re going to do to make sure people are getting X of these, say, formatting capabilities. And the answer was that we really needed to do something different. And so the Ribbon was that change.”
Despite some changes over the past decade, the “Ribbon” is clearly here to stay. As Microsoft has continued to add features to their Office suite, the Ribbon has provided a more scalable and structured way to discover these features without losing access to the most popular tools.
In 2007, Microsoft had a market cap of $224 billion. In March 2017, they have a market cap of $502 billion.
Other Tech #Fails That Were Exaggerated?
What other greatly exaggerated tech #fails did I miss?
Do you overreact when your favorite products make dramatic changes or do you fight through the temporary pain?
Who manages changes to their products best and worst?
Let me know at @amitch5903!
Check out my book, Building Digital Products, at www.buildingdigitalproducts.com
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Check out Alex’s Book: Building Digital Products
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