Don’t panic, but Facebook is changing (again)

Facebook reveals a new look news feed

By Rhian Harris

It seems like only yesterday that we heard the panic and outcry on the statuses of our Facebook friends when our profiles were updated to Timeline.

It was in fact over a year ago now and it’s been a game-changer the way in which branded content is displayed to fans.

And despite the negative criticism users made it was actually only one of many changes Facebook have made to the way we use the social network.

Here’s the timeline of updates you probably forgot:

  • September 2006 – Newsfeed is launched showing ‘highlights’ of friends’ activities, closely followed by an update to  advanced privacy controls
  • November 2007 – ‘thumbs up’ and ‘x’ icons appear against posts so that users can start to personalise content they like or dislike seeing
  • July 2008 – users get the ability to receive ‘more about’ or ‘less about’ certain friends
  • March 2009 – a major home page redesign showing the news feed update chronologically
  • October 2009 – going away from chronological content, Facebook changes its default settings to display popular or engaging content generated since the last log on
  • December 2010 – filtering added to ‘most recent’ tab by type of content
  • February 2011 – news feed updated with the ability to see content from all friends and pages, or just those interacted with most frequently
  • September 2011 – ‘top stories’ added
  • January 2012 – adverts added in ‘featured’ or ‘sponsored’ page elements
  • March 2013 – new look news feed announced

 So what is the latest update?

Facebook claims the new look news feed is intended to ‘reduce clutter’ and ‘bring stories to life’ by creating a more visual home page.

Photo stories will be blown up to provide rich previews rather than small stories, which is a move towards a more mobile and tablet inspired design to unify the look across different devices.

The redesign will see the Facebook home page becoming widescreen bringing stories to the surface of the news feed to highlight what friends are sharing.

The other change is that there will be multiple other feeds that users can browse in categories. For example, users can see all photos uploaded and shared by friends by navigating to a specific feed section in the top right.

Users will be able to split out pages of brands and/or celebrities through a ‘following’ feed.

Facebook ads will be made more prominent but there will be a new, easier-to-spot button to enable the user to hide the advert .

So what’s the verdict?

Will people really tell?

Undoubtedly there will be mixed opinion from users that don’t like the new release, but given that such a large proportion of Facebook traffic is via smartphone or tablets apps, it’s arguable how much people will notice this latest design.

Are they trying to change the basic function of Facebook?

The previous updates to ‘real time’ stories was a bid to be more like Twitter, and the pop out bar and widening of the page from a 3 column to a 2 column layout in this update feels like a move towards the Google+ design. It’s questionable as to the point of these moves, given that there can be big differences in the user profiles of different social networks. Facebook needs to retain the reason why Facebook users like to use the service.

Is it all actually new?

The update to the ‘new’ multiple feed switcher e.g. to all photos or videos, actually feels like a step backwards, as this was functionality previously available. Although reverting to previous functionality, this does feel like an improvement.

Is it all for ad revenues?

The argument to reduce clutter really only focuses on the sponsored ads that arguably are to blame for creating untidy looking feeds. So it feels as if the update is really for the benefit of the ad revenues Facebook are looking to maximise.

Will advertisers really benefit?

For advertisers is means ads will be larger and in theory less easy to ignore, but it’s questionable as to whether users will respond better given the ‘ad blindness’ or poor targeting that goes on. In fact this could be one of the biggest criticisms from consumers of the release.

The new Facebook news feed update is said to take months before it will reach users, but in the meantime a waiting list is in operation for those eager beavers among us.

What do you think?

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