Facebook wants to be your life. They want you to chat, exchange messages and publish your photos using their services. That's ok. It's a good concept. It's just too bad their technology sucks to the point of being unusable at times.
The main reason is a critical one: Reliability. That's where Facebook fails.
Being good is not good enough
At this point Facebook has 500 million active users. 50% of those login every single day, and they have an average of 130 friends each. They are associated or interact with 900 million objects, including pages, groups, events and community pages. Together, Facebook users create and share 30 billion new links, articles, wall posts, notes and albums. 30 billion new pieces of content every month. Breath.
Those are staggering numbers. All that information is stored in a giganormous distributed database, which ties everything together. The fact that a system like this works on a daily basis may seem impressive to most people, and it is. And the fact that it very rarely goes down—unlike other less-complex systems like Twitter—is good too.
But if you want to take over every aspect of people's lives, good is not enough. Being just "good" is a failure. You have to be absolutely perfect, and that requires—first and foremost—that your messaging and chat facilities work flawlessly, with no loss of data whatsoever. Sadly, that is not the case.
For years now we have been suffering Facebook's chat system, perhaps the worst in the industry. You can't maintain a conversation without you or your buddy being logged off. Sentences, entire paragraphs don't get delivered. I can't count the times I've wanted to punch the screen and given up. Everyone else I've spoken to has had the same experience.
But now, with the merging of chat, the message box and their new mail address, things are even worse. During the last few weeks, some messages have been lost. Gone. They show up in the notifications panel, but they are nowhere to be found in the actual inbox. This problem is actually the number one problem in their Help Center's messaging section, labeled as "known bug." How can this be a known bug and not be fixed?
You get the first phrase but can't access the rest. You see you have received a "Hey! Yes, I definitely would love to..." but nothing else. Would love to what? Would love to go out to the movies but can't? Would love to strangle me? Would love to get me in bed? Would love to bake a cake? Would love to spread some jam on my monkeys? What would you love? What? What's going on, in the name of the Holy Underpants!
While you may think that Facebook communications are inconsequential, the fact is that they are not. Many people depend on Facebook to keep in contact with very important people in their lives. They carry all kinds of information, from the trivial to emotionally charged messages. A message has the potential to make or break marriages and friendships. Many people depend on it just like Facebook wants and, for them, any reliability level below 100% is completely unacceptable. No computer system that wants to be an integral, irreplaceable part of our lives can fail like this. And data loss is absolutely out of the question.
On top of all this, there's the issue of their user support. Facebook support pages are a joke, and critical issues like losing messages redirect you to a feedback form. I'm still waiting for an answer to my request, sent days ago. If you want to have people depending on you, you need to provide instant feedback. Not a black hole and the promise that your problem may get fixed one day.
Zuck and crew: Get your act together. It has been years since Facebook has had chat and it's still unreliable. Messaging fails too, a "known bug" according to your own help pages. Now you want to further get us inside your cave with your mail services. But how can we trust you with yet another part of our communications when you have not been able to get the basics right in years?
We can't. You can't pretend to be the planet's digital life hub and then offer services that fail and no technical support. Your objective requires that your system's reliability is absolutely perfect. Less than that is not acceptable.
Until then, you are Failbook.