Do a quick Google search for “Facebook app problems” and you’ll find page upon page of articles, forums and message boards with complaints about various issues—from privacy concerns to random glitches and battery drain issues.
That’s not stopping anyone from using it: In 2014 alone, Facebook and its sister app, Messenger, were two of the most downloaded free applications. But interestingly enough, Facebook’s ratings in the U.S. review column hovers around 1.7 stars, while Messenger currently has an average rating of 2 stars. The consensus ratings don’t seem to match up to the app’s unwavering popularity.
There’s no doubt that Facebook’s unbundling last summer hurt the app’s status. When Facebook made Messenger a separate app in August, users had no choice but to download it—but they definitely didn’t do so happily. Messenger quickly claimed the top spot in the App Store, but also maintained about the most abysmal rating possible. Within a month, around 92 percent of more than 64,000 Facebook users gave the Messenger app one-star on App Annie. The titles of the three most recent user reviews in the iTunes store are: “Glory days long gone”; “There are updates, but you don’t see/feel them”; and “Still awful.”
And despite these consistently dismal ratings, Facebook doesn’t seem to flinch. Of course, the social network has reasons to be a tad complacent: A report from TheStreet that came out today revealed that FB stock has surged by 28.55 percent over the past year, and the company’s revenue leapt by 59 percent since the same quarter last year—significantly exceeding the industry average of 28.8 percent. But considering the fact that 59 percent of Facebook’s revenue comes from mobile advertising, according to a Testmunk blog, one would think the company might be slightly worried over user dissatisfaction with the app.
The fact is, it’s not just one issue — users have a wide variety of complaints about the app. According to Testmunk’s evaluations, the top problem is app crashes, with 52 out of the 100 sampled negative reviews relating to its unreliability. The second-most common complaint is about core functionality issues, such as the “like” function not working or problems with notifications. It’s no surprise that another prominent user grievance had to do with the Messenger app, with 11 reviewers of the sampling citing this as one of the main reasons for their dissatisfaction.
Other common gripes included complaints specifically about the newsfeed and the video playing functionality, as well as general performance issues like slow loading times or a poor user experience.
High dev demands
So the question remains: why does a top-performing company have such a disappointing app?
Alan Cannistraro, engineering manager at Facebook, gave a presentation in 2013 in which he revealed that there is no official quality assurance department—instead, developers are responsible for writing the tests for his or her own code. That’s a lot of pressure for a massive app like Facebook.
It’s starting to make sense why Facebook was voted for having the worst API in a survey of more than 100 developers, which was posted on Hacker News in 2011. Among their comments, participants mentioned the fact that the Facebook API has the most bugs, never-ending API changes, slow response times, poor documentation and other hassles. Certainly, the social network has made efforts to keep developers happy. In 2013, the company announced that it would alert developers when API errors affect their apps from now on.
There is only one Facebook, and no matter how many frustrations the app causes, most of us are not going to delete it.
But there are evidently still some inefficiencies in the company’s strategies. While Facebook has yet to reveal how long the quality assurance period for the app is, a two-week release cycle is arguably too short—especially considering the overall complexity of the app, added pressures on developers, and the (arguably) short window for them to fix bugs. Testmunk also noted that it’s likely Facebook is attempting to cram too many updates into each release.
Regardless of why these woes persist, one thing is apparent: Sometimes a product only has to be minimally acceptable to still be valuable, especially when society is so heavily dependent on it. As Testmunk put it, Facebook has become the “app everyone loves to hate.” There is only one Facebook, and no matter how many frustrations the app causes, most of us are not going to delete it.
Image of Facebook app via Shutterstock.