The Usability of Facebook is Frustrating

Monopolies usually lower their standards, as there is no competition to force them to be better. Facebook is no exception. With (allegedly) “the best engineers in the world” there is a pretty long list of pretty dumb problems.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of bugs and usability issues:

  • Sharing a post that has text and a link. After so many years they haven’t yet got that right. The behaviour has been changing and has been inconsistent — you sometimes share only the link, and sometimes share the link + the text. At some point I saw an option to choose, but it’s gone now. At some point there was inconsistency between the behaviour on mobile and on a desktop. At this very moment I’m failing to properly share a text + link post. That has lead to people copy-pasting the text in their share… but if the text is actually included, it becomes duplicated. Frustrating experience even for an experience, tech-savvy user like me.
  • I still get the “1 unread message” in the mobile app. There are no unread messages, but it hangs there, and nothing can make it go. That used to be a big problem on desktop, which is one of the reasons Facebook created the React framework, but apparently on mobile it’s even harder to fix. Maybe they need a new mobile framework?
  • The news feed is regularly showing old posts (from 2–3 days ago), that I have already seen several times. Why would I even want to see such posts again. If they were links, maybe I didn’t click them last time. But text-only posts? From several days ago? Is there nothing new to show me? With hundreds of “friends”, I’m sure there is. Which leads me to the next point
  • In the mobile app there is a feature “ Reconnect with people you unfollowed”. Good. But I have never unfollowed anyone (with one or two exceptions) and there’s a huge list there of people that I have never unfollowed, and was wondering “Why I’m not seeing anything from them?”. Maybe it was some implicit unfollow due to no interaction, or simply a bug, but it seems like a big issue.
  • Another mobile app inconsistency — some of the notifications (e.g. “tagged you in a post”) open a different view than more common notifications. It looks like a browser-version rather than an app. Why different types of notifications would open a post differently is beyond me. I imagine how messy the code is, though.
  • Speaking of browser-view — opening links in embedded browser, rather than in the default browser for the (mobile) device is breaking the web experience. There is no “search” option, there is no “open in new tab” option. Yes, these might be less used features than the “share” button ontop, I get it, and they’ve made it configurable to not use embedded browser, but why not add search and open in new browser window?
  • Previews of posts are another yet-unsolved issue. Once (on a page) I failed miserably to include the proper preview — facebook showed the right one until it got posted, when it switched to the wrong one. On personal pages often you get no preview. Yes, I know how to use the facebook debugger to fetch the image into the cache. But can’t they automatically do that in case no preview is found?
  • To begin with some more minor nuisances, recently the order of likes has gone random. You see there are new likes, you open the post, and have no idea who actually liked it recently, because the order is not chronological. It has improved, but I’m not longer sure.
  • When you completely mute a group, you still get notifications about friends posting there. Why…I want it completely muted.
  • Auto-playing videos are okay. But when I actually click on it to play it, it should start from the beginning. It doesn’t now, and I have to scroll to the start in order to hear the first words of the video.
  • When a page you are an admin of has a removed post…facebook kicks you out of your account on every device and wants you to relogin. I’m not sure in what way that makes sense, maybe it’s because it’s reported as “spam” and they assume it’s posted by a virus, but a better fix would be to improve the reporting instructions rather than kick people out.
  • Speaking of reporting — recently a lot of people are complaining about being banned for a certain period of time because of reports. Apparently people dig old photos that might look to an algorithm like violating the rules (e.g. caricatures, beach photos (nudity), etc.) and report them, so that the owner gets banned. And that works — you can get someone banned over something that no sane person would see as an issue.

I won’t even get to fake news proliferation and the role of Facebook in that — fake news get promoted via ads, get pushed by bots into multiple groups, and that’s easily detectable behaviour that hasn’t been tackled so far (yesterday I saw they are going to consider fake news everything posted by a person that posts more than 50 times a day… nice machine learning feature, I’m sure it will get worked around pretty quickly)

I know this whole post is a “first world problem” par excellence. The point is not to complain about minor issues, but rather to put online monopolies into the spotlight, so that we can see that they are indeed monopolies as any other, and their quality deteriorates because of that. All of the above are things that must be trivial to fix even at facebook scale, but they aren’t fixed. Because why would they be?

The usability of Facebook is frustrating even for me, and I doubt that a site with such usability would be able to gain traction if it didn’t already have millions of users.

Software engineering. Linguistics, algorithmic music composition. Founder at LogSentinel.com

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