Is Facebook Mobile App Unbundling a good thing?

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Regardless of the many predictions of Facebook’s imminent demise, I still use the site on a daily basis to keep tabs on friends and family. The beauty of the desktop version is that everything is seamless and together (well almost everything). Conversations usually evolve around a recently posted photograph (often via Instagram), event or video, or shared topical / amusing social media. The main thrust being that Facebook on the desktop holds together the context and the conversations. Many a time is a Facebook Chat sparked off by some mutually connected media - and the conversations stay focused on the context when all elements are presented together.

 

When we worked on the UKTV sites many years ago, we saw the impact on their many sites’ Forums of ’lack of context’ - as Forum conversations very quickly lost their topicality and focus when there was no context to the conversations. That is why I stated some years ago that threaded comments were the new Forums as they ensured that the conversations always maintained context.

 

Facebook is currently engaged in lots of different mobile ’experiments’ - nothing is fixed or final yet, but there does seem to be a concerted move now away from ’all-in-one’ and towards individual apps. As a starter, Instagram has never been fully seamlessly integrated into Facebook, and now the Chat component is being pulled out on mobile into the separate ’Messenger’ app. Americans also have the benefit of using ’Facebook Paper’ which is Facebook’s version of Flipboard, and a possible replacement for the main News Feed - all these actions essentially eroding the ’sum of the parts’ strength of desktop Facebook.

 

One of the main reasons I like Facebook vs Twitter - is its ’togetherness’ - the fact that all the necessary ingredients are included in the same flow - this encourages contextual conversations. With Twitter you have to click away from the main conversation to view images etc. and the conversations quickly become fragmented and die off. With Facebook you often see new comments on older topical conversations, while Twitter is more of a fire-and-forget - with little archival value or interest.

 

There’s obviously pros and cons of going the individual Apps route vs bundling them together - current society’s youth for instance very much live on WhatsApp and Snapchat - quick-fire, immediate and instantly forgotten. While the more mature users seem to prefer a more holistic approach which has added timeline appeal. You could compare the difference between YouTube video clips and the more languid storyline arcs of TV Series like True Detective.

 

We’re very much in ’horses for courses’ territory here, and the teen audience has a preference for more rapid-fire, standalone and disposable conversations, while more mature audiences want context, scope and longevity.

 

I do get quite annoyed at the moment when I have messages flashing up on the Facebook ’Messenger’ app as they are always separated from their context and catalysts - while on the Desktop you get the immediate references - and a more seamless and enriched experience. Twitter very much ramped up the ’soundbyte’ society - where everything is made of short, disposable headlines - this in turn led to the clickbaiting stories on Mashable and Buzzfeed. All those things are quite superficial though really, and if you look at what Twitter’s evolution has been recently - they are trying to make themselves more like Facebook, because frankly Twitter is really just too superficial!

 

Separating everything out means you loose the richness of the experience, you loose connection and relevance. There may be a trend for fast-and-furious at the moment, but longer term surely it cannot overcome ’deep-and-meaningful’ experiences can it?!

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