Opinion: The 7 Least Used Facebook Features

Facebook constantly updates their social network to include and remove features, a case in point being their recent removal of application spam Facebook notifications. We’re all familiar with the changes that actually made a difference – the news feed, the redesign, the “like” button – but we thought it’d be interesting to look at those lesser-known features in Facebook… you know, the ones that people probably never use.

Pokes

I used to get at least 10 pokes a day. Now I get about one a week. You may be thinking that this could be a result of my slow decline in popularity, and you definitely could be right. But it’s also important to note that pokes are barely used by anybody I know as well. When Facebook did their redesign, they took Pokes out of the spotlight, and pokes now appear in a small box way down the right side of the page. Combine that with the number of big, popular applications and big flashy news feeds, and it looks like pokes are about to go the way of the dodo.
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Boxes

When the Facebook redesign kicked off, one of the biggest changes was that applications, which once used to house their ‘boxes’ on a user’s main page, were kicked off into their own tab labeled “Boxes”. This is a mandatory tab, where applications’ profile boxes appear. A box is something that can contain a user’s top score in a game, or their latest activity, or just a cool photo from a photography application. Unfortunately, in the entire history of the new redesign, I have never found myself interested in looking at my or anyone else’s box at all. The idea is sound, but the end result is a cacophony of random images and information that really doesn’t convey a clear image of a person’s application habits or application scores.
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Tabs

Tabs in general were an exciting idea when they were released, but somehow haven’t gained the traction that many thought they would. Their prominent position on people’s pages means that you’d think that they’d have more use than they do, but other than flipping to the “photos” tab, I don’t see much use of them. Specifically, applications have the ability to create custom tabs for their game, which seems like a great idea, but hasn’t been executed yet in a way that users seem to embrace. I had anticipated that game makers like Playfish would attempt to make a “Playfish tab” which would have a summary of users’ successes in all their games, but with recent moves like the “games dashboard”, it seems like Facebook will summarize the games themselves and users would be even less to use the Playfish tab.

Notes

Notes, while not ever particularly used, enjoyed a brief resurgence with the recent “25 Random Things About Me” phenomena, where users would post notes talking about their own random personal traits. The idea caught on in Facebook and spread everywhere until people got tired of them and I realized that two-thirds of my friends think “I Love Lost” constitutes a ‘random thing”. With the end of the fad, so ended the use of notes. I have yet to see a single note since the trend, and in fact Facebook’s “comments” system and expanded wall means that even extended tirades can be posted within the regular Facebook wall and comment system.

Application Wall Post Attachments

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If you look at the ‘share box’ at the top of any wall, you can see the arrow that allows you to post special attachments along with your post. The defaults are photo, video, calendar entry and URL. These are definitely coming into use, but application wall post attachments are not. Any application, such as SuperPoke, can be attached through the special area, but there are a series of steps to go through before you can attach pokes to your wall post. I don’t see this catching on any time soon.

Recent News

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We all got a new interface with the redesign, and the news feed was one of the biggest changes. What we don’t see is that the default sorting method for our news feed is the “top news” method. There is another method called “most recent”, where you’re able to view all the news feed items of all your friends in chronological order. Wait, isn’t that what top news is? The answer is no: top news uses Facebook’s social algorithms to determine news that will likely be relevant to you, based on various factors which likely include who you communicate with on Facebook.

Friends Lists

Friend Lists IconFriends lists are interesting because they seemed as if they would be the perfect response to the masses of uesrs that complain about their news feed being unusable. By adding friends to a list and setting it as your default, you can filter out the news feed entries from people you’re not interested in. That said, the interface to actually add and remove friends from a list can be a bit clunky, and somehow the feature hasn’t caught on amongst most users. People I talk to often complain that their Facebook news feed has gotten so irrelevant to them that they barely use it and will probably quit altogether, and when I inform them about friends lists the response is usually “Wow, I had no idea that existed.”