On September 6, 2006, Facebook’s 12 million users were thrust into the world of frictionless sharing. Logging on, users discovered a News Feed in the place of their profile page, which is what they’d previously seen when they’d logged on. Everyone’s updates and activities had been routed into a single feed so that you could see everything that your friends were doing on Facebook and all your friends could see what you were doing as well. Prior to this, you had to visit your friends’ profile pages to check out their updates. Now everything was out in the open: posts, shares, likes, comments, updates – everything.
People hated it. Critics called the site ‘Stalkerbook’ and threatened to decamp for MySpace. But the News Feed stayed and turned out to be central to Facebook’s success. It was only after the introduction of the News Feed that Facebook took off. Twitter launched the following year with a News Feed and nothing else. Since then, it has become standard practice on social media sites to feature a feed or stream that compiles everything that people are doing in one place. The all-in feed has become central to the social media experience.
The News Feed works because it taps into the logic of gift culture. News Feed turned Facebook into a gift economy. I suspect this is precisely what Zuckerberg and co. aimed to achieve.