For most people, it's probably hard to imagine Facebook without the News Feed. In fact, for most people, the News Feed is Facebook. So, it would be easy to forget that there was a time when it was despised. In fact, people publicly revolted when Facebook launched the News Feed back in 2006 over concerns that it violated user's privacy. I distinctly remember thinking that while it was kind of convenient, it was hard to overlook the fact that it was also kind of creepy.
Until then, if you wanted to know what your friends were up to, you had to visit their pages. But with the News Feed, your friends' activities were aggregated into a single feed that you landed on when you signed in. Everything you shared was now fed into an algorithm that would show it to your friends.
It wasn't that they could find anything more than they could before--it was that they no longer even had to look. It was just streamed into their News Feed. It's also where Facebook displays ads based on all that engagement, which has made it the second-largest advertising platform in the world.
An article by Wired's Steven Levy reveals details about the origins of the News Feed gleaned from a few surviving pages from Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg's journals from that time period. In those pages, Zuckerberg details his ideas for News Feed and how it would surface information that was "interesting" to users. His notes even explained how he defined "interesting," and how that would inform an algorithm to power the feed.
There are actually a whole bunch of lessons that come from News Feed, and we don't have nearly enough time or space to cover them all here. That said, regardless of what you think of Facebook, you have to admit that its News Feed is what made Facebook what it is today. The algorithm that powers it, first thought up almost 14 years ago as recorded in Zuckerberg's journal, is what makes Facebook's business model possible today.
The News Feed's early lack of popularity serves as a reminder that sometimes your customers might hate the changes you make--they might even leave. But, just because your customers resist the changes you make, doesn't mean you shouldn't do it anyway. Eventually, your business might even grow.
Part of being an entrepreneur is seeing beyond what your customers can see. I'm not sure there would be a Facebook today without the idea Zuckerberg sketched out in 2006.
Instead, that idea is what largely helped Facebook grow past 2.5 billion monthly users, and $50 billion in annual revenue. Kind of makes you wonder what else he was dreaming up and what we might see in the future.