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Facebook Profile Pages Becoming Irrelevant?

As Facebook becomes more and more popular, the social network giant is putting more emphasis on the real-time feed. In other words, the activities of your friends displayed in reverse chronological order on your Facebook homepage. In the old days of Facebook - and indeed traditionally with social networks like MySpace and Friendster - you'd visit a person's profile page to see what they're up to. Facebook changed this paradigm in September 2006, when it introduced the news feed as the primary way to keep track of your friends. In October 2009, that feature was re-named the "live feed" and Facebook introduced a more filtered news feed for your homepage.

With these evolutions, do you still browse your friends' profiles on a regular basis? Or do you mostly rely on the live and news feeds to consume content on Facebook? We posed that question to our community on Facebook and Twitter.

Before we check out what our community thinks, it's important to note that Facebook is also making other changes that bring the real-time feed to the fore. This week Facebook will remove "application boxes" from your profile page, meaning that you can no longer feature highlights from third party web applications on your profile page - for example a box showing what books you're currently reading. One of the upshots of this change is that more emphasis is placed on real-time content, because content won't stick around as long on your profile page without boxes. Your review of a book becomes a part of your news feed for a day or two, then slips off your profile page forever. Whereas with a box, it could stick around for weeks and even months.

Survey Results

We asked our community: How many of you visit the profile pages of your Facebook friends on a regular basis, or do you mostly rely on the News Feed?

The responses on our Facebook Page indicated that most people rely on the news feed and rarely visit people's profiles. Further, the responses implied that a visit to a user's profile is more likely if they're a close friend or family.

Mark Coates put it this way: "mostly the news feed for the vast majority. Less than 2% get visited regularly."

Lisa Ellwood said that she uses the news feed "mainly for people I don't really know that well and I go to the profiles of actual personal friends."

Kris Lowe perhaps summed up the pervading feeling best:

"Mostly the news feed, but I also check out friends profile pages when I find myself wondering how they're doing, what they're up to and/or haven't heard much from them lately. The latter is useful both for real life friends and family on Facebook and professional contacts on Facebook."

Over on Twitter, there was a similar sentiment. @TheRogueAgent's response reminded us that the increasing usage of smart phones may be a key reason for the Facebook feed's predominance. "Always the feed," he tweeted, "always from the mobile."

@EricaNaone reinforced that the feed is best for most friends, with the profile page only important for a few. "I visit the profiles of 5-6 friends regularly," she said, "For the rest, it's news feed." @NaomiHagelund similarly noted that she relies on the news feed, "except for 3 or 4 people."

For @ZachGersh, the simplicity of the news feed experience is what counts: "I don't need a huge profile cluttering up what I actually care about." He added that "simplicity is what makes Twitter so powerful."

It's not just simplicity, but saving time in this information overloaded world. @MissPieces complained that "profile browsing is too time consuming!"

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss

So there you have it, most ReadWriteWeb readers use the Facebook news feed to consume information from the site. They rarely visit a user's profile page. If they do, they're more likely to if that user is a close friend or a relative.

Perhaps it shows my blogging roots, but I think it's a shame that profile pages are losing their luster. I like to think that my Facebook profile page shows something about my social persona - with its books and music box (at least till end of this week!), random Foursquare check-ins, arty updates from my lifestream blog, and so on. Maybe I'm a bit too full of myself, thinking that these things are of interest to my Facebook friends. But I don't think that's it, because I also like to visit other people's profile pages and see what makes up their social personas.

It's clear though that I'm in the minority. The rolling stone of the feed gathers no moss, but meanwhile your profile page is beginning to look like the front cover of REM's classic album 'Murmer.'

If you haven't had your say yet, tell us in the comments whether you mostly use the Facebook feeds or whether you have a soft spot for the good old profile page.

Join The Conversation

  • Aug 23 Posted 6 years ago איתמר מומחה של ... (not verified)

    i think that facebook is feeling so powerful right now because of there size that they do what ever they want without thinking how there changes affect people and in particuar - marketers on facebook.

    keeping up with all there changes is a real job.

    i hope maybe some one over at facebook is reading this anf start actting difreantly

    thanks for the good info


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