Welcome to the new Facebook

I was happily typing away about an entirely different subject when I decided to reload my Facebook home page. And BAM - there it was. "New Facebook." A small scream escaped, more out of surprise than discontent, and my eyes immediately darted to the upper-right corner searching for my safety net - the "Back to the old facebook" hyperlink.

But alas. Only a lone, "Send feedback" link remains. We'll never see the old Facebook again. After all, everyone knows that Mark Zuckerberg knows his Facebook, and if he thinks it needs a change then it will change, regardless of how many users join your "I Hate Facebook Newsfeed!" and "I Hate the New Facebook!" groups.

So why am I blogging about it, if not to cry out for mercy and beg Mark Zuckerberg to give me back my old Facebook?

The simplest answer is that over the past few years, through several controversial changes and additions to the site, Facebook's creator and staff have earned my trust based on three basic points:
• Relating to the users
• Making clear acknowledgments of users' concerns and learning from past mistakes
• Genuine efforts to make this particular transition as smooth as possible for everyone

The Facebook Blog is one of the most comprehensive resources of its kind that I've seen on a networking site. Facebook staff who post on it tend to be straight-forward and most importantly, relatable. Mark Zuckerberg is a real person, and when he responds to an issue he does so on our level. Correct though he was about the basic values of Newsfeed and Minifeed once they were appropriately tweaked and adjusted, he wasn't too proud to say, "We really messed this one up," before presenting his solutions to the problems. He similarly reached out to address the infamous Facebook Beacon issue of late 2007.

"The New Facebook," however, was going to be a huge deal and all of the staff understood this from the moment the project got underway. So instead of a jack-in-the-box "SURPRISE! New Facebook!" akin to the launches of Newsfeed/Minifeed and Facebook Beacon, they made sure users were well aware of the changes planned. For almost two months now, Facebook's home page has included a hyperlink prompt to "Check out the new Facebook" with a separate link to "Send feedback." Users not only had a great deal of time to switch back and forth and acquaint themselves with the new page layout before making a full commitment - the option to provide feedback was available upfront. A little over a week ago, the product manager for the new facebook, Mark Slee, responded to the most prevalent concerns in his own blog post. And now that the new Facebook is the only Facebook, users will find small yellow tab markers all over the site to guide them through the biggest changes.

More than anything else, this experience demonstrates the importance of relating to your customers. It is exactly this kind of open dialogue between Facebook's staff and its users that builds trust and brand loyalty. And for what it's worth... some of the new Facebook changes actually are kind of sweet.