Facebook boycott called as millions blast new design

Almost 2.7 million Facebook members have joined a group opposed to the site's redesign and planned a boycott.

A Facebook group formed for those opposed to the site's new design is nearing 2.7 million supporters, and the leaders are organizing a two-day boycott to bring their point across.

The group, called "1,000,000 against the new Facebook layout," has greatly exceeded the expectations in its title and is encouraging its supporters to stay off Facebook during the weekend of Oct. 18 and Oct. 19.

It's not the only Facebook group created to protest the new design, which, according to Facebook, has now become the default for almost all of its members. Another group called "Petition Against the New Facebook" has more than 1.6 million backers, while the group "I hate the new Facebook" has 1.5 million supporters.

It's likely that there is a lot of overlap among these groups' supporters, but if the largest group contains all of those opposed to the new design, that's still a significant number of unhappy members. Facebook has 100 million active users.

Facebook has been monitoring these groups, tracking the complaints and reaching out to some of the leaders, a spokeswoman for the company said. Facebook is receptive to feedback from its members, values their enthusiasm for the site and is taking their suggestions into account for future design improvements, she said.

Jessica Fishbein, a high school teacher who is one of the administrators of the group with more than 2.6 million backers, begs to differ. "Facebook, which normally cared about the feedback of people, just made this decision, didn't really care what the users thought and isn't really responding to feedback," she said in an interview. "People are very upset."

Fishbein said that neither she nor the group's other administrator had been contacted by Facebook, although Fishbein has written to the company with links and information about the group and asking for help. She said she and her fellow administrator had to oust the group's creator after he tried to profit from its massive popularity for commercial reasons. Indeed, they haven't been able to scrub his commercial pitch from the group description, despite asking Facebook for help, she said.

Fishbein, like many redesign critics, dislikes the new tabbed interface because she feels it forces people to do too much clicking around to see and find things. She preferred the more consolidated look and feel of the old design. She also finds the overall effect of the new design to be "very in-your-face," whereas the previous layout was, in her view, less strident and more discreet.

Fishbein realizes that Facebook is unlikely to revert to its old design, but she feels the company could earn a lot of points with its members if it acknowledges the main criticisms and makes modifications.

"The goal is to send a strong signal to Facebook. For every person that takes the time to join this group, there are more out there who are upset," said Fishbein, who has been a Facebook user for about two years and is administrator of another group devoted to ending hate speech.

Fishbein said it would be good to give members the option to toggle back and forth between the old and new interfaces, as it did for about two months between July and September. However, the Facebook spokeswoman said that this is unfeasible for technical reasons. It would make it complicated and cumbersome for Facebook and for developers who create applications for the site, she said.

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Juan Carlos Perez

IDG News Service

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