“Ask her!” the receptionist at the Feiniger Gallery in Quedlinburg told us in German, pointing towards a terrified junior colleague who was shaking her head profusely. They thought I wanted them to babysit my 11 month old daughter while my wife and I had a look around the gallery.
They were showing a photo exhibit of life in Berlin before the Wall came down. When your economic and political system is so bad you have to build a wall and guard it with guns to keep people from leaving, you might possibly have gotten something wrong. It’s far fetched, but this made me think of Facebook.
At the gallery everyone was relieved when I finally managed to make my self understandable. “Oh, I see! Of course you can take your pram into the gallery.”
The motherly lady who was in the gallery itself was easier to understand. “There was a ceremony here just the other day,” she said in German, “and I wondered what the occasion was.” Everyone seems to talk to you more when you have a baby in tow.
“Then I realized,” she continued smiling. “It was the 13th of August! When they raised the Wall! Imagine, it’s been so long since it came down I forget the anniversary!”
Facebook raised its own wall recently*. They’re forcing all of their users to download their Messengar mobile app by ripping the chat feature out of their main app. So if you have a message on Facebook you either have to download a separate app or wait until you’re home at your desktop to reply.
Facebook’s Messenger app was launched almost three years ago, in August 2011. Apparently, not enough people are using it. I removed it from my own phone after I first tried it out as I prefered the main app.
The Berlin Wall was a solution to a symptom, not the disease. The problem wasn’t that people were leaving East Germany, the problem was East Germany itself.
Facebook’s Messenger is a subpar version of WhatsApp. The problem wasn’t that people weren’t aware of the app, the problem was that the app itself wasn’t compelling enough to use. Facebook shouldn’t have given up on fixing the app rather than forcing its users to install it.
* Note: I’m not comparing nice people in Silicon Valley who I respect to nasty people in the DDR.