Sunday, 15 March 2009

Facebook Does It Again

Last year, on July 21, Facebook rolled out its new design. The new design was met with outright hatred from many and caused enough controversy that various groups opposing the "New Facebook" arose. Despite this, in September Facebook did away the old design entirely, so that everyone was forced to use the new design or simply leave Facebook. While very few appear to have left Facebook, the new design had proven no more popular than when Facebook shanghaied everyone onto it last September.

Despite the fact that the new design of Facebook is only eight months old, the social networking site has already changed its home page again. The major change on the home page is the introduction of a Twitter style news feed that updates in real time. Facebook has also done away with the old News Feed preferences page. Now one controls the type of stories he or she sees on the feed through filters ranging from ones based on networks to one's Friends Lists to various applications. All stories on the news feed now include the thumbnail photo of the user pertinent to the story.

Facebook also introduced a Highlights section to the home page. The Highlights is a lot like the News Feed only it shows fewer stories and those stories are supposed the more significant ones from a longer period of time. Facebook also made changes to their Publisher. "Notes" is conspicuously absent from the Publisher. What is worse, is that there seems to be no way to add Notes, or any other application one might want on his or her Publisher. It is also harder to block applications from the Publisher (the only way I have found to do so is to block an app from all access to one's info, then to unblock it...).

The new home page was rolled out with very little fanfare. In fact, I rather suspect that only users who read Facebook's blog even knew about it. It was also rolled out gradually, with the first users being migrated over to it on March 11. Regardless, it has proven no less popular than the "New Facebook" rolled out eight months ago. Many users are complaining openly about the new homepage. Indeed, the largest protest group against the New Facebook, 1 Million Against the New Facebook, has gained 8032 Members in the past two days. As to why Facebook revamped the home page only eight months after the introduction of the New Facebook, they have not revealed their motivations for dong so. I have to wonder myself that it could be a delayed response to opponents of the New Facebook. The new home page is a bit more organised than the original home page of the New Facebook. Too, I have to wonder if Facebook is trying to make its News Feed look more like Twitter--the resemblance between the two is too uncanny to simply be coincidence.

As someone who still despises the New Facebook, I can understand why Facebook users are upset. There are things I do like about the new News Feed. I like the idea of using filters to see only the sorts of stories I want to see. And to some degree the new home page is more organised and modular, although not nearly as organised as the old Facebook. That having been said, there is a lot I dislike about the new home page. First, while I like the idea of the filters for the news feed, I would like control over what filters are present with regards to the applications. I have little reason to filter my friends on the News Feed with regards to SuperPoke, much less with regards to apps I don't even have (what is the Friend 8-Ball?!). On the other hand, I like being able to filter stories according to their activities on Flixter or WeRead (I am a movie buff and a bookworm, after all). Quite frankly, Facebook should let users decide which filters are present with regards to the News Feed.

Second, I am not sure I like the look of the News Feed. Is the thumbnail picture really necessary? And couldn't they use a slightly smaller font? The one thing I prefer about the old News Feed is that many more stories would fit on the page. Third, I think they should either do away with Highlights or let the individual decide what they consider Highlights. I mean, it really doesn't matter to me how many of my friends are using the Peeps application!

My fourth and biggest complaint is regarding the Publisher. I have always exercised strict control over my Publisher, blocking only those apps I considered necessary from it (Write, Notes, and Links--I'd block Photos and Videos if I could). Now I cannot add apps to the Publisher (I want to put Notes back on it) and I have to temporarily block apps from having access to me just to block them from the Publisher! Quite frankly, the way Facebook has, *ahem*, fouled up Publisher (I had to restrain myself from saying something very impolite there...) angers me more than when they did away with the old Facebook!

Facebook is taking feedback on the new home page (one can provide feedback at the Help Centre). Of course, whether Facebook will actually make any changes based on that feedback is difficult to say. After all, when Facebook forced everyone onto the new design last September there was plenty of outrage directed towards them (users complaining about the new design in their status, groups forming opposed to the new Facebook, stories published in blogs and the mainstream press...), and yet they have never returned to the old Facebook design. My suspicion is that that eight months from now we won't see much in the way of changes to the home page, let alone the return of the beloved, old Facebook.

Currently Facebook is the largest social networking site out there (yes, it is even bigger than MySpace). I have to suspect that it might not remain so if it keeps making changes which its users actively hate. Indeed, right now I think the only change that Facebook users might welcome is to simply return to the old Facebook. No, not Facebook before March 11, 2009--I am talking about the classic, better organised, and easier to use old Facebook from the days before July, 2008!

1 comment:

Raquelle said...

Just when I got used to the Old New Facebook now there is a New New Facebook. ARgh!