What’s one key thing that you would like to see added to Facebook?
We recently put the question to our SMT community, and we got a heap of suggestions as to how Facebook could be improved, some of which have been repeatedly suggested over time, and will likely never come about (dislike button), while others that do have some merit, and have been tested by the platform to varying degree.
Here’s a look at some the top suggestions shared, and where Facebook seemingly stands on each as present.
1. Dislike Button
The most requested feature addition was, unsurprisingly, the dislike button, giving users a way to quickly signal their disapproval of a post or comment in the app.
Which, in some ways, would likely help to improve Facebook’s algorithms and user experience. Reddit, for example, has long relied on its downvote option to better prioritize the best content, but on Facebook, the concern is that it would be weaponized to bury dissenting opinions, and would generally lead to a more negative user experience.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been pretty clear on his stance on this over time:
"Some people have asked for a Dislike button because they want to be able to say 'That thing isn't good'. And that's not something that we think is good for the world. So we're not going to build that. I don't think there needs to be a voting mechanism about whether posts are good or bad. I don't think that's socially very valuable or good for the community to help people share the important moments in their lives."
Zuckerberg has reiterated this many times, though Meta did add Reactions to provide more post response options back in 2015, and it has also experimented with downvotes on comment replies, though not specifically as a mark of dislike.
The biggest potential concern in not having dislikes is that it can give the impression of broader agreement with a comment or post, without adequate context. At a glance, if you see a post with hundreds of Reactions, with the Like being among the first listed, that can make it seem like more people actually agree with that opinion than it would if downvotes could be displayed to balance out that response data. But then again, the nuance then comes in the comments, where people can argue and debate, adding to Facebook’s overall engagement stats.
I do think there would be some value in a dislike option, but it doesn’t look like that’s ever going to happen on The Social Network.
2. Improved customer support
This one was also expected, with Meta’s customer support often being criticized for failing to provide adequate responses, or even be contactable in any direct way, with most of its guides and notes referring users to its online help forums instead.
Meta’s well-aware of this, and it has been working to improve. In December, it began testing live-chat support for some users in some regions, while it’s also still working to get its moderation teams back to full capacity after various COVID-induced disruptions.
There’s no easy answer here – when you’re operating a platform used by 3 billion people, there are going to be issues with providing direct service at an adequate scale. But Meta is working to improve, and it’ll be interesting to see if its trial of live chat gets expanded at some stage.
3. Expanded keyword blocking
Several users called for keyword blocking tools on Facebook, which would also apply across all of Meta’s apps when implemented (and your profiles are connected) to help users better manage their in-app experience.
To be clear, you can currently block specific keywords from appearing in posts or comments on your profile or your business Page. But you can’t block them from your view entirely – although Meta did test exactly that at one stage, so it is technically possible.
Back in 2018, Meta tested a ‘keyword snooze’ option which was designed to help users avoid TV show spoilers and the like by temporarily hiding posts that included your chosen terms for up to 30 days at a time.
But it didn’t stick – in January 2021, Facebook ended the keyword snooze experiment, effectively shutting down keyword muting in the app.
But it is technically possible, and it does seem, based on the number of users calling for it, that there could be some merit to pushing for the option once again.
It may be unlikely that Meta would go back and try it out again - as it did run that initial test for two and half years. But maybe, it could happen, and it could still become an option in the app one day.
4. Chronological feed
Yes, the algorithm-free, reverse-chronological feed of old, which some believe would make Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and every other social platform a much better place.
The truth of that is unclear, as Meta says that when users don’t have an algorithm-defined feed, they actually end up missing a lot more of the most important updates from friends and family in the app, as well as posts from Pages that they care about.
But some users are still calling for it – while it is worth noting that Facebook actually does have a variable ‘Recent posts’ sorting option for your News Feed, so you can actually experience the app without the algorithm right now. It’s just not a default setting – you can’t set your feed to display the non-algorithmic feed every time you open the app, you have to manually sort it each time. Which is not the same, but it is still technically possible to view your News Feed in posted order.
Would Meta consider making this a settable option? I suspect not, and it’s currently in the process of implementing the same manual sorting in Instagram as well, reiterating that approach.
Again, Meta’s executives have repeatedly noted that the user experience is demonstrably worse without the algorithm, so they’re not likely to let users shut it off completely. Even if they think they would prefer it.
5. Audio posts and comments
Meta has actually been experimenting with audio posts and comments for some time, though they’ve never made it to the main version of the app.
Meta ran an initial experiment of audio posts with users in India in 2018, which is still available (I believe) to Indian users, providing an alternative way to engage in the app. You can also post audio clips as replies in Messenger, catering for a similar use case.
Would there be value in adding audio replies, and potentially complicating the engagement process?
There are probably a few challenges here - most notably, the inability for Meta’s moderation tools to accurately detect comments in spoken word, which could reduce its overall effectiveness in removing violative content.
Maybe that’s enough of a deal-breaker to halt this development entirely, while it would also be a big change in how people interact, with some doing so in text, in between audio clips, etc.
It feels like it would probably complicate things too much, so I wouldn’t anticipate this coming – but then again, Meta is still experimenting with a range of audio elements in the wake of the Clubhouse-led audio explosion last year.
Maybe, eventually, audio clips will come as part of this.
6. Page lists for custom feeds
Some users also suggested a way to either select certain Pages and profiles for different News Feeds, or a way to separate posts from Pages and profiles into their own feeds for easier sorting.
Meta’s actually tried both of these options, in different forms.
Back in 2016, Meta ran a short trial of topic-focused variable News Feeds to help users better navigate their various interests in the app.
The trial was indeed short, and small-scale, and Meta abandoned the idea pretty quickly, which suggests that it didn’t help improve its key metrics or user experience.
In 2017, Meta ran a test which split the News Feed into two – one feed for posts from profiles and the other from Pages. It ran the test for four months, in six smaller usage markets (Bolivia, Cambodia, Guatemala, Serbia, Slovakia and Sri Lanka) before shutting it down, with then News Feed chief Adam Mosseri noting that:
“People don’t want two separate feeds. In surveys, people told us they were less satisfied with the posts they were seeing, and having two separate feeds didn’t actually help them connect more with friends and family.”
Maybe, if users could create their own custom lists of Pages and profiles for their own, variable feeds, maybe that would work, but it does seem like Meta’s done the experiments on this.
Other potential Facebook feature suggestions included sorting your lists of friends and Pages you follow by location (you can sort of do this for friends by entering a location into the search element of your friends list), improved demographic targeting for ads, like job title and salary (not likely), faster video playback speed options, review certification to stop people using bad reviews due to ulterior motives, and broader account verification as a measure to weed out scammers and spammers.
Some users also re-raised the idea of paying a monthly subscription fee for Facebook in order to avoid ads, which Zuckerberg has also ruled out several times in the past. Maybe, there could be a scenario where this becomes a more viable option, but with its business model built on ads, it seems unlikely that Facebook would move to provide an ad-free model, especially when it’s already generating so much money.
It’s definitely interesting to see where people are looking, and the features that they most want to see in the app, but as explained, most of these options have been tested and considered in the past, and they haven’t made it through to the next stage.
That doesn’t mean that Meta won’t do any of them, but given the history of each, and its evolving focus on the next stage of digital connection, it seems unlikely that we’re going to see any significant change in approach any time soon.
But at least this provides some context for those asking, as to why each might not see the light of day.