10 Social Network Blunders Of 2014
Social networks had a big year in 2014: Facebook celebrated its 10th birthday, closed its third billion-dollar acquisition, and renewed its focus on user privacy with a number of updates and changes.
Twitter, though it struggled to meet investors’ expectations in the first half of the year, ramped up activity in the second half, launching new analytics, a buy button, and a handful of other improvements set to debut in 2015.
Curious about what else made our list? Here’s a look at the other top social media disappointments of the year.
1.Facebook splits Messenger
One way to rile your users: Remove a popular feature from your app. This year, Facebook announced plans to drop its built-in chat and instead require users to download a separate application, Messenger, to retain chat capabilities.
The decision was wildly unpopular and wrought with misconceptions. Months later, after Messenger has clocked more than 500 million downloads, much of the moaning has subsided. In a recent Q&A session, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted that the social network could have handled the switch better.
“Asking everyone in our community to install a new app is a big ask,” Zuckerberg said. “Asking folks to install another app is a short-term painful thing, but if we wanted to focus on service.
2.Yahoo ends third-party logins
Yahoo announced back in March that it would gradually phase out third-party logins for all of its web properties. This meant that users who signed into Yahoo services using their Google or Facebook ID now would need to sign up for a separate Yahoo account to continue to access their Yahoo services.
In June, Yahoo extended this policy to the popular photo-sharing site Flickr, which caused problems for users with multiple Flickr accounts. According to Yahoo’s policy, users could link only one Flickr account to a given Yahoo account. Users with multiple Flickr accounts needed to sign up for additional Yahoo accounts to access them.
3.LinkedIn’s blocking feature
LinkedIn users complained for years that the social network needed a better way to deal with stalking, going as far as to start a petition on Change.org to drum up support. In February, LinkedIn responded by launching a blocking feature.
“We know members have requested a blocking feature on LinkedIn,” said Paul Rockwell, its director of safety at the time. “We built this feature not only because it was a feature our members requested, but because we also knew it was the right thing to do.”
Though the petitioners applauded LinkedIn for adding a blocking feature, others said it doesn’t do enough to prevent stalking. LinkedIn users still can browse profiles anonymously, which makes blocking stalkers impossible.
4.Twitter adds app tracking
It’s no secret that social media sites collect droves of data about you and your actions. This month, Twitter upped the ante on its data collection practices and announced it would also track the apps you install on your mobile devices. The company said this would help it do a better job of targeting content and ads.
The data that Twitter collects is limited to the names of the apps you’ve installed, it said on its Support page. Other information, such as what you share or how often you use the apps, won’t be collected.
5.Facebook’s mood manipulation experiment
Facebook found itself in hot water in June when the results of an experiment it conducted on users’ feeds were made public. Facebook published research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in March detailing how it tinkered with the news feed algorithm of nearly 700,000 users for one week in early 2012. Researchers found that, in instances where Facebook showed users more positive posts, users were more likely to share positive updates. Conversely, when Facebook showed negative posts, users were more likely to share negative status updates.
Experts and users voiced their outrage, calling the experiment unethical and even illegal. The Electronic Privacy Center, a privacy watchdog group, filed an FTC complaint against Facebook in July, alleging that the social network deceived users and violated a 2012 consent order.
In October, Facebook apologized and outlined new guidelines that covers internal work and research that gets published.
6.Google+ opens access to Gmail addresses
In January, Google announced that it would allow users who have Gmail and Google+ accounts to email anyone who also has both accounts, even if the user didn’t know the person’s email address. The company said the change would be useful for people who know one another but haven’t yet exchanged email addresses.
The problem: Google automatically turned on this option for all users, which opened people up to a surge of unwanted emails. Users quickly took to Twitter to voice their disapproval, and they called out the company for opting all users into it. Graham Cluley, an independent security expert and former consultant at the security firm Sophos, said in a post that, even though Google does let you opt out, the new feature would be a nuisance for users — and even potentially dangerous.
7.Facebook’s organic reach drops
Businesses struggled to reach their Facebook followers this year after the social network changed its news feed algorithm. According to a Socail@Ogilvy report, organic reach dropped from 16% of followers in 2012 to just 6% in February 2014 — a 49% drop from peak levels. The report advised community managers to expect organic reach to approach zero by the end of 2014.
8.LinkedIn faces privacy violation
A federal district judge in June ordered LinkedIn to face a lawsuit that alleges it violated users’ privacy by accessing their external email accounts and downloading their contacts’ addresses.
According to the plaintiffs, LinkedIn routinely sent multiple emails endorsing its products, services, and brand to potential new users whose email addresses LinkedIn “surreptitiously obtained” as part of its effort to acquire new users. They also claimed that the social network sent additional emails to those addresses when those users didn’t sign up for a LinkedIn account.
9.Facebook’s app push
With the exception of Messenger, the standalone apps Facebook launched in 2014 tanked. In February, Facebook debuted the news reader app Paper, the first app to launch from Creative Labs, its initiative to develop and design apps for mobile devices. Though Paper managed to give users a new way to experience Facebook, it never caught on. Facebook has limited Paper downloads to iOS devices and hasn’t released an update to it in months. The same is true for Facebook’s Snapchat competitor, Slingshot, the interest-based app Rooms, and its latest app, Facebook Groups.
10.Silicon Valley’s diversity problem
Google was the first company to release workplace diversity statistics in June, followed by several other high-tech companies. The numbers told a sobering tale: Silicon Valley has a diversity problem.
Seventy percent of all Google workers are male, the company said, with women holding just 17% of the technical jobs. Leadership roles at Google tell the same tale: 21% are held by women, 79% by men. Sixty-one percent of jobs at Google overall are held by white people.
Of LinkedIn’s 5,400 global employees, 39% are female, and women hold 27% of executive roles in the US, according to the company’s EEO-1 filing. On the ethnicity front, 53% of US LinkedIn workers are white, followed by Asian (38%), Hispanic (4%), black (2%), two or more races (2%), and other (<1%).
Facebook and Twitter revealed similar statistics. Facebook employees are primarily male (69%) and white (57%). Asians (34%) and Hispanics (4%) were the next two most-common ethnicities. Twitter's staff, too, is mostly male (70%) and white (59%), with Asians (29%) and Hispanics (3%) rounding out the top three ethnicities.