Facebook didn’t guess that users wanted to share photos. It learned it, Mark Zuckerberg explained in his talk at Y Combinator Startup School. “We really listened to what our users wanted, both qualitatively listening to the words they say, and quantitatively looking at behavior that they take.” Users didn’t necessarily say they wanted photos, but were uploading new profile pics every day.
So Facebook built out photo sharing, it exploded with popularity, and proved that sometimes the data can reveal what users want before they even know it.
That wasn’t the last time Facebook would put turn this practice into product. Hundreds of thousands protested the news feed, but engagement was up, Facebook stuck it out, and news feed became one of the site’s most popular features.
On the other hand, Facebook’s mobile usage kept growing, but all the iOS users were complaining the app was too slow. So Facebook pivoted away from HTML5, rebuilt the app on native architecture, and its App Store rating and engagement climbed. You have to listen to both the words and the numbers.
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