How the Facebook redesign killed widgets

October 1, 2008

How the Facebook redesign killed widgetsThe Facebook redesign has been almost as unpopular as the US financial bailout, with an estimated 70% of users disagreeing with the changes. And its effects are now being felt: Facebook has killed widgets.

The redesign of Facebook has been a thorn in the side of the social networking site since it was first mooted back in July. While its first sighting was welcomed as an improvement, with overtones of the ever-increasingly popular FriendFeed being displayed, it was only the opinion of the tech bloggers who noticed it first.

Then came the general release and the story was slightly different. People hated it, end of. They didn’t like the new layout, the way things had been deleted or moved, and most of all, the way the redesign was foisted upon them with no consultation having taken place.

So came the obvious backlash, with a good number of the 100 million or so members Facebook currently has expressing their distaste at the enforced changes. There was a group started calling for a return to the old style Facebook we’d come to know and (sometimes) trust.

It didn’t work of course, and Facebook forged ahead with the redesign, taking away the option to use the old design at the beginning of September. The CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg then tried to address the many complaints in only his sixth ever blog post.

So here we are a month later, and what exactly effect has the redesign had?

Alexa shows that traffic is actually up, so in the purest sense of the word, Facebook has survived the onslaught of complaints. Not surprising really, as although unpalatable, the redesign still leaves Facebook as a much better social network than MySpace.

But, there is one aspect of the site that has suffered immensely because of the changes: widgets. We all had them on our profiles, whether it was the stupendously popular Bumper Stickers, or Flair, or iLike, or Flixster. We loved them, we used them occasionally, and they differentiated our Facebook profiles from our friends. And now they’re gone, kind of.

They are still there, but the redesign stopped them all from cluttering up your profile and gave them their own little section called Boxes. It’s out of the way and no-one really even goes there. Which means one thing: all the widgets that were once the lifeblood of people’s daily visits to Facebook are now dying slowly in the corner.

This was first noticed by Nick O’Neill at allfacebook, who created a fun little widget called the Bush Countdown Clock when the platform was opened last year. As the name suggests, this widget merely counts down the seconds to when Bush finally leaves office, but that was enough to prompt almost 50,000 people to stick it on their profile.

Since the redesign, O’Neill’s app has seen a 60% drop in traffic, and the Bush Countdown Clock is sure to not be alone in losing most of its users.

AllFBGraph

By redesigning Facebook to get rid of the clutter, which none of us asked to be got rid of in the first place, Zuckerberg and his team have completely killed off widgets, and any fun we may have extracted from them. Carry on at this rate and Facebook may become as dull as MySpace. Now that is a worry.

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