Facebook got some criticism over the past week as it introduced a Stories-like feature called Messenger Day into its Messenger app. The blowback was somewhat surprising, because the equivalent feature in Instagram has been a huge hit over the last nine months or so. However, the rollout of Messenger Day within Messenger is a symptom of a broader problem afflicting Facebook at the moment – trying too hard, especially when it comes to new features.
Back in 2012, as Facebook was readying for its IPO, some investors were worried that Facebook hadn’t yet figured out how to monetize its growing mobile audience. It had just begun to serve up ads in the News Feed on the desktop site, but hadn’t yet begun to do so on mobile. Facebook did eventually introduce mobile ads, but remained very careful not to overload users with ads or overwhelm them with unexpected new experiences.
It was when Facebook introduced the live video feature that Facebook appeared to sacrifice the user experience to a strategic objective. With the launch of Messenger Day, Facebook is arguably repeating this same pattern, sacrificing the user experience for a strategic objective. Facebook took over the camera button with a sun icon in the first day or two, messing with a core feature of the app. Secondly, the Messenger Day stories from friends are far larger and less in keeping with the overall design of the app than their Instagram counterparts.
Extending the feature to Messenger is absolutely logical. It worked in Instagram, and Messenger feels like another natural home. But Facebook needs to get back to the ethos that guided its careful introduction of advertising back in 2012, and dial back the hard push for adoption of new features.