PR woes aside, Facebook's product just plain sucks

Catching up on Recode's Pivot podcast today, something co-host Kara Swisher said about Facebook's latest publicity disaster really struck me.

Some background: The Verge's Casey Newton recently got his hands on recordings of CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaking candidly to in-house meetings at Facebook about several topics he normally be more reserved about, if not completely mum, in public. These included trash talk about Twitter, lamenting a possible Elizabeth Warren presidency, and other remarks definitely not ready for prime time.

In the first Pivot episode after this little scoop broke, it of course came up as a topic of discussion. Swisher, a longtime tech journalist and former colleague of mine at the Wall Street Journal, says a little after the 14:30 mark:

"One thing that continues to strike me about Facebook is, you know, [Zuckerberg] never talks about products. He talks about copying other people's products. He talks about fighting back at the government. Where's the talk about things they're making?
"This has always been a company that is not as interested in the product as they should be. That's why they have to use these muscle-y things. I think, if he focused more on product, he'd be better off. His own product, that he thinks of himself, not that he copies from other people.
"This has been an ongoing story at Facebook. He's always scared of something, and then they copy it... whether it's a phone or whatever is the hot thing of the day... He's sort of in the 'Only the Paranoid Survive' mentality. But I really wish he would just use his creativity and maybe make something fresh and original. And that's my disappointment with Facebook. It's just dull. It's a dull company."

This is a really, really good point, I think. In a weird way, it even strikes me that, for Facebook, there may be a silver lining to all the bad publicity it's gotten lately over Zuck's remarks, privacy, and its handling of misinformation in that this stuff distracts everyone from talking instead about how flat-out bad their product is.

Especially the flagship Facebook platform. It's cluttered, confusing, makes questionable choices in curating what you want to see, and often connects you with "friends" you don't know at all, among other shortcomings.

To put it a different way: Does anyone actually enjoy using Facebook? I know almost everyone does check it, often out of FOMO, but that's not at all the same thing. I mean real enjoyment.

If you really do get such a feeling from using Facebook, please do let me know via Twitter or email peter[at] I'm truly curious to hear.

Anyone? Anyone?

Header image by NeONBRAND via Unsplash.

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