Facebook Takes Our Side — for Once — on Mobile Experience

David Carr’s column today about the push and pull between media companies and Facebook is revealing of many things about the state of the web, but this aspect is the most interesting to me:

Enter Facebook’s popular mobile app, which has captured greater amounts of time and, more remarkably, managed to fit a business model onto the small screen by providing extremely relevant advertising. By contrast, publishers like newspapers and magazines and even some digital sites have tried to shoehorn old business models and web templates onto tiny screens. That hasn’t worked so well.

Loading publishers’ web pages on a mobile device can be maddening, slowed by advertising that goes out for auction when readers click. So while Facebook loves the content, it hates the clunky technology many publishers use for mobile. When it comes to the impatient hordes on phones, speed matters above all else.

It should be encouraging to see Facebook on users’ side of... well, anything, but especially user experience questions. Who doesn't hate using ad-supported websites on mobile? Any delays, pop-ups, and interruptions stoke a feeling of instant antagonism. Just as Facebook is figuring out how to make mobile users happy and profitable, the publishers start getting desperate and screw it all up. I’m glad Facebook is on top of this.

To make money on mobile, ad-based publishers are incentivized to impose the maximum tolerable annoyance. Facebook, with its much richer sense of the (economic) meaning of its users actions, is incentivized to impose the minimum possible annoyance to keep people happily using the service. In that sense, Facebook is on our team here.

I still want to marinate on it, but my gut reaction to Facebook’s bold proposed solution — which Carr describes in the article — is not immediate disgust. Maybe ad-supported media belong in Facebook’s stewardship.

Anyway, that’s how much esteem I have for advertising. :)

Read more in the New York Times