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So, we’ve reached the final part of our look at how the ‘log-in’ or ‘home’ [if you’re unregistered!] pages of the major social networking websites have changed, especially in their relation to being a shop window for the service that is membership of each particular website. We’ve looked at Twitter and Youtube, and at the last stop on our tour, we’re looking at the social networking behemoth that is Facebook.

History

Facebook was launched as TheFacebook in February 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, along with his fellow Harvard students / roommates Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes. Originally created as a website to facilitate communication between students at the university, Facebook quickly permitted registrations to students of other institutions before allowing anyone over the age of 13 to register in 2006.

Over the past ten years, the website has not only made several changes to the way it displays information in its newsfeed, but has also changed the way profiles are designed [and has arguably been the barometer for what other social networks are likely to follow in this regard], and has seen a variety of advertised and paid-for content being added to newsfeeds and sidebars.

On the ‘business’ side, Facebook has not only held an IPO, but has also made a few handy acquisitions of other tech companies and apps along the way, including Instagram, WhatsApp, and Atlas.

While the site’s newsfeed changes have not always been met with positivity from users, how many changes have there been to the log in page over the last eight years, and what does this mean for the site?

Changes

[Click and drag the line left or right to switch between 2008’s Facebook page and today’s, and click here for a larger version]

Unlike Twitter, which arguably has blossomed over the past eight years, Facebook’s log-in page appears to be quite similar in terms of content, and the message that is trying to be passed across – after all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. One clear change that has occurred over the past few years, however, is that the site appears to want to place an emphasis on bigger, broader, and blanket communication.

The page that used to encourage people to sign up to connect with the people around them, now boasts an image of people being linked across the world, with the clear aim of promoting easy communication between individuals separated by long distances.

Interestingly, the old site appeared to allow you to search for people you knew without signing up or logging in, almost in a ‘peer pressure’ tactic to ensure people create accounts [e.g. this person is here, you should join and add them so you can hassle eachother outside of work / school / university / whichever boring place you know each other from]. This feature does not appear on the current version of the page, most probably because everyone is expected to be on Facebook nowadays [which isn’t exactly an absurd line of thinking in regards to a website that has 1.5bil active monthly users, and 3.7mil individuals being signed up from Europe alone].

While the page has not changed by displaying Facebook’s intent to “connect” people, the site now encourages people to ‘share’ with other individuals, conveying the website as an ideal location to communicate privately with select individuals, and also post messages and content out to bigger audiences in one go.

As with Twitter’s current log-in page iteration, Facebook, both currently and in the past, includes log-in and sign-up forms on the page itself, perhaps to reduce the risk of user abandonment. One small addition to the page, however, is the link to create a page for a celebrity, band, or business. According to consultancy organisation, Deloitte, Facebook enabled $148bn of economic impact and 2.3 million jobs in 2014 alone, as a result of the promotional and marketing abilities that it afforded to businesses around the globe. Pages in 2016 are clearly a more professional and investable prospect, than they were a few years ago – when most of the pages being shared were of strange memes and in-jokes [most of which, co-incidentally, have been monetised and are now filled with spam content a result of their large viewership].

Not the only shop window

As I outlined in the first post of this series, the ‘home’ page of a social networking site can almost function as a major marketing tool. Given that user numbers, user data, and ad viewings mean major bucks for those running the site, attracting in an audience (or, more importantly, not losing one) at this point is key. But Facebook, in contrast to the other social networking sites, also created a range of advertisements based on the theme of “friends” for TV.

 

All in all, I can’t help but feel that Facebook’s big aim is just to be an online ‘this is your life’ to each and every user. Unlike the other sites I have covered in this series, Facebook doesn’t put content on its log-in page to entice users in – simply because it doesn’t have to. Not only is the universal expectation of Facebook usage and word of mouth power to entice users in enough, but people also understand what they’ll probably be seeing if they sign up: lives. Just like theirs. With the same mundane routines punctuated by extraordinary moments, and slotted in between announcements and promotions from brands and businesses that are probably already saturating their senses.

The Future

The ‘like’ button on Facebook is about to change so users can convey a wider range of feelings towards a piece of content, and the newsfeed undergoes a variety of changes regularly, not only to change how content is sorted, but also to change the overall ‘look and feel’ of the site. While the log-in page has only changed subtly over the past few years, in terms of a marketing message, Facebook doesn’t appear as thought it will be knocked off its perch as the top social networking site around, and I presume that, as a result, major changes are unlikely – and we’ll only find out by keeping our eyes peeled for the next eight years!

 

Where do you see Facebook heading over the next decade? Are they right to keep their log-in page static and ‘content free’? Drop me a comment below!

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