Facebook’s birthday reminders actually remind us that we are the product, not the customer.

Facebook’s birthday reminders are a perfect example of a nice feature being totally ruined by interruptive advertising in social media services.

Look at how much real estate is taken up by gift offers. I have to work hard not to accidentally click one of these links.

facebook_birthdays_annoying

“Buy your friends a birthday gift card from iTunes or Starbucks.” “It’s Jonathan’s birthday, give him a message. Oh and buy him a giftcard from iTunes and Starbucks.”

That’s annoying enough already. Now look what happens after I wrote my friend Jonathan a birthday message.

facebook_birthdays_superannoying

“You just wished John a happy birthday. WHY DIDN’T YOU BUY HIM A GIFT CARD FROM iTUNES OR STARBUCKS? YOU CHEAP SKATE!!!”

I don’t know exactly how Facebook advertising deals work, but I suspect its based on impressions and click throughs. Not so much whether people actually bought any gift cards for their friends. Just in wishing happy birthday to my friends today, Facebook scored 5 to 8 impressions for their advertisers, and one accidental click through since I was having trouble getting around the giant ads above to wish Ernie a happy birthday too.

Personally I think Facebook could make this feature even better. Why not enhance the feature to tell Jonathan, “Greg just wished you a happy birthday, but he didn’t buy you a gift card from iTunes or Starbucks. Maybe he doesn’t really like you.” Here is my mockup of this enhanced feature:

Facebook_birthday_superduperannoying

If any Facebook user experience designers read this blog and decide to use this idea, I want a royalty. However, I also will stop using your service since you are serving your advertisers far better than you are serving your users.

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