Of course the answer is yes…but the real answer is “yes and no”. The degree to which a web company listens to their users is something every website views slightly differently — it’s a fine line between trying to please your users and doing what’s best for your business at the same time. For the most part, those two things align very well; particularly for media companies that make their money from advertising. The more happy users — the more uniques, ad impressions to serve, positive word of mouth, etc. But just because there are a ton of users who revolt over a specific feature or major design change does not mean its bad for your business. Quite the contrary actually (in many, but not all, cases). Look at the facebook newsfeed. Regardless of all the criticism they took, anyone that tells you the feature was a stupid move for their business is clearly not thinking straight or smoking something. Sometimes we forget all these web 2.0 companies are exactly that — companies. As much as we might like to think otherwise, Yelp, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, Teachstreet, etc were not created strictly to solve our problems and react to our every demand. They are businesses trying to make money WHILE helping us solve real world problems. If at the end of the day, they can’t pay the bills and build value for their investors, they aren’t going to be around over the long run.

Many users get used to the look and feel of a website and just don’t want to see it change, no matter what the reasoning. Or a specific user may feel that a specific process on a website is clunky and should be reworked. Before spending any development effort, the company has to ask itself: “will spending the development resources to fix or build a particular  feature add anything to the bottom line?” If not, then it’s likely that the work will be put in the queue of work items, but not with any sort of priority. Being on the front lines and constantly interacting with Zillow customers, I naturally always want to help Zillow users get their suggestions and bugs acted on as quickly as possible. But sometimes, there’s just not a business case to be made. A feature that’s only relevant to 1 or 2% of users is probably not worth the development time when you consider other items impacting 90% of users that could be worked on instead. Unfortunately, no web shop has unlimited resources to build and fix everything. Zillow, my employer, is no different in this regard.

Doing a good job of product development prioritization is absolutely critical to any web business that wants to end up on top. I agree with Scoble that Facebook and Zuckerberg are smart to not always listen to their users. Trendsetters and disruptors don’t do what others tell them to do – they find & create their own path regardless of the skeptics and haters. And that’s what Facebook is doing.