Sometimes, the best product update is a rollback to the original version

When a company releases a software update, whether to fix issues in an older version or to roll out new features, it should have a plan in place in case users revolt – even if that means offering a way to roll back to the old way.

In recent weeks, there’s been some backlash against Facebook for rolling out new features that its users don’t care for – but the company has done little to appease the vocal critics. From the beginning, Facebook’s users have usually reacted negatively to changes – but eventually come around and grow accustomed to the new features.

With a large user base unlikely to jump ship in droves, Facebook has the luxury of being able to ride the storm of negative feedback. But not all companies have that flexibility.

Consider what happened when AliphCom, maker of the Jawbone Jambox speaker, released a firmware update to roll out a new feature called Live Audio. The update included a new audio tuning algorithm that reduced the audio distortion at high volumes. Sounds like a good thing, right?

Unfortunately, with the update, the lower volume turner converted what was once “a booming little speaker” into a “whisper woofer,” even at full volume, according to a blogger’s account. With users unhappy, AliphCom did exactly what it needed to do – it acknowledged the backlash and quickly communicated to its users about yet another firmware update in the works, one that would allow users to turn off the new features and switch the Jawbone back to its original form.

Good for them. By reacting quickly, communicating with transparency and giving its customers an option to fix the perceived problem, the company likely earned a ton of respect and loyalty from customers.

Late last month, Instagram – a photo sharing mobile app best known for its “filters,” – released an update that delivers new live views and faster response times. But it also tweaked the filters and, as a result, the look of the images. And that has left some users far from happy.

What have they done? At first, not really anything. In fact, it took an unhappy blogger to sound the alarm and post instructions on how to undo the upgrade and roll back to the previous version.

While that may temporarily make some people happy, in the long run, it does more harm than good. First, users will know that they’re using an older version and missing out on other new features they like. Second, lack of acknowledgment of the backlash minimizes the concerns of the most faithful users. Finally, it gives competitors an opportunity to come in and do what you’re already doing – but in a way that appeals to the most passionate users.

Update: They finally released a new version that bring the old filters back.

It’s a bit of a cliche – but, this is one of those instances where the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” can be applied. Instagram fixed the issue in the nick of time. Hopefully, other companies are taking note of how the company – and its users – move forward.