New features at Facebook don’t spring fully-formed from the brain of Mark Zuckerberg like some kind of digital Athena. They’re often the work of engineers and product designers constantly tinkering with little experiments. Facebook’s engineering team released a list of their favorite hacks in 2013 – projects that started at one of the three-day “hackathons” the company holds to generate new ideas.
In the past, big features like Chat, Timeline, and the “Like” button came out of hackathons. This year, nothing so innovative or important to Facebook was created, which is perhaps appropriate, considering how stale Facebook felt in general.
Still, 2013’s Facebook hacking wasn’t a total waste. It brought us Shared Photo Albums, a user feature that no one really cares about, but it also brought us Air Traffic Control. Air Traffic Control isn’t a feature that users are familiar with, because it’s a hack that allows Facebook to simulate a stronger network connection in order to improve mobile in developing countries (and also, to better record usage, because Facebook can’t do anything without being a tiny bit creepy). Air Traffic Control isn’t a hack that seems exciting, but it’s probably the year’s most interesting hack when it comes to Facebook’s mobile future, which depends on widespread adoption in developing nations.
Other hacks? There’s weather on events pages, which helps people attending plan how to dress. That’s probably the only other hack that’s really of note on the list, but the engineers also included the “Thumbs Up” sticker package, “Let It Snow” (a Chat Heads hack for Android that makes it look like there’s snow in your Chat Head), and a few efficiency tools.
Unless Facebook is purposely leaving an innovation off the list that they plan to debut in the future, this was a boring year for Facebook updates. Dear Facebook hackers, here are some ideas of stuff you can try for 2014:
– A ticker that tells you how many times you’ve looked at someone’s page
– A drawing tool that lets you deface your friends’ never-ending Cabo photos that you wouldn’t have even wanted to go on anyways so who CARES
– A usable video chat service
– Reintroduce the ability to make your name unsearchable
– Introduce the ability to make your name searchable only to a select list of handsome, thoughtful doctors