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Five Website Updates No One Asked For

by Zima

Let’s face it, people always complain. And they always complain about changes. That’s human nature and arguably there is little that can be done about it, thus most companies tend to simply mitigate the inevitable backlash. But sometimes the doom is just too much of an opportunity for Internet users to pass up. We are talking about cases like…

5. Internet Movie Database forgets what it is about.

Let’s start with an easy one. IMDb – the biggest online database of movies in the world just recently decided to introduce a makeover after aging gracefully for the past 13 years. Interestingly, the very first iteration of the site used to employ the lauded ‘clean’ google look, before introducing a heap of new useful features back in 1998. Since then the consensus was that the portal was perfect for getting your daily fix of TV and movie-news snippets, as well as a very user friendly tool for getting info on anything produced in the biz.

Then 2011 rolled in. Apparently that was the year IMDb discovered the existence of touch-screen technology. Now to find anything useful on profile pages users have to continuously scroll up and down, instead of using side links. Moreover, the relevant data, the quest for which likely brought people to the site in the first place, is now presented in bits or buried altogether among the clutter of links at the very bottom of the page. Put simply – you’ll have a blast looking at pictures and videos, but for research purposes the interface just got chunkier. Good job, IMDb, it is now easier and faster to get interlinking statistics on the Wikipedia.

4. Digg completely loses it (along with its users).

We take things up a notch here at Digg. You like?
Ah, Digg… Before all of us were ‘liking’ and ‘twitting this’ stuff back to our personal pages, there was Digg. The initially ads-free tool for users to vote news stories up and down, attracted north of 230 million users at its peak three years ago. But as popular social networking services were actively finding their way into multiplexes (and also incorporating all interesting ideas scattered around), Digg exploded into a frenzy of crazy changes.

Gone in an instant was the fun of the news-gathering competition, while the service suddenly appeared to be more advertising-friendly. In an attempt to widen the potential audience and secure the fleeting original base, the unwanted change towards the bland outraged users. The ensuing shit-storm cut the community numbers like a plague in the middle ages, culminating in the freefall we are still witnessing now. Perhaps the biggest lesson learned from this disaster is

that social media should never lose touch with the core audience. Frustrating the army of Internet users by removing their favorite features is bound to create a rebellion. Hopefully, Zuckerberg et al are watching…

3. Central Intelligence Agency gets closer to the people.

Quick, name best Internet sites known for their social media functions. If you say CIA, congratulations, you appear to know your agencies, just as much as they likely know you. Now, CIA might not strike you as the friendliest of organizations trending in the communication industry. That’s probably because it is not. Hence the addition of functions like Flickr PhotoStream and YouTube channel (right under the links for ‘World Leaders’ and ‘Studies in Intelligence’ seems baffling at best, and downright creepy given enough thinking (in tight brightly-lit windowless rooms with a huge mirror on the wall).

Oh, right, we get it – the CIA wants to seem more transparent and hip. However, a spying organization that is frequently suspected of some horrendous manipulations all over the world is not likely to be trusted by a regular surfer. Just yet. In fact, with open invitations to join its virtual circle of trust, the organization seems to be sending a mixed message. Guess we’ll just wait for the end of the war on terror before linking profiles and sharing photo albums with cherished memories…

2. Encyclopedia Dramatica trolling its users.

For those not in the know Encyclopedia Dramatica was just another gate into the abyss that is vile, gory, politically incorrect, abusive, unreliable, sexist, and simply offensive NSFW Internet. However, by employing the motto of ‘doing it for the lulz’ the site contributors exposed everything that they saw wrong with the modern society and then some. Sometimes satire, sometimes hate machine, always far beyond the line, Dramatica somehow managed to be on the frontlines of the battle for Internet freedom of speech. You may not be a person to actually enjoy or even stomach the content of the site, but that was precisely the original point.

Then, in April 2011 it all came to a screeching halt with the ED owner calling it quits on the grounds of ‘maturing the resource’. Usually a natural process, this time the growing-up was rather drastic and painful. Basically, the Encyclopedia as it was known seized existing, replaced with a sanitized wiki called OhInternet of the Know Your Meme variety. Of course enraging an army of anonymous trolls is never a good thing, and now the original owner faces as much hate as she used to see praise, while at the same time becoming a poster-child for someone who attempted to kill an entire subversive culture. Oh Internet, indeed.

1. Facebook does not know when to stop.

What, you thought the sacred cow of social networking is untouchable? We put CIA on the list for opening up to the public, for crying
out loud! Of course we are going to smack Facebook. After all, it sucks the life out of everyone, including us, with its barrage of constantly appearing new stuff. Those kids at Palo Alto just don’t know when to stop!You know how you joined FB wanting to share your news with friends and colleagues and see what they are up to? Yeah, that’s bullshit now. As your friend-list grows along with the list of useless applications, you find yourself bombarded with unnecessary tests, revelations, requests, and games, making it easier than ever to miss, you know, actual relevant information. But that’s OK. Apparently this is what constitutes social networking these days, so we’ll play along.Still, why continue changing your perfectly operating machine if it ain’t broken? The news feed changer, black-screen picture viewer, and the way you edit or delete your messages – what was so wrong with all of that to warrant a recent change? The frequency of updates is just as mindboggling. And yes, we never ask for them.Yet Facebook is definitely here to stay (at the top no less) for a very long time. Hopefully the attitude of excessive updating and changes for the sake of updating and changes will pass eventually. Though, it would be nice if we are still around to actually experience that.

My pictures all have black backgrounds now! WHY?!

So, to rehash, keep this in mind if you are one of the fishes in the pond:

  1. Do not make life difficult for the user
  2. Do not alienate your core audience
  3. Do not forget your main purpose
  4. Do not be Encyclopedia Dramatica
  5. Know when to stop
  6. PROFIT?!!