The past three weeks since Facebook’s site redesign was announced haven’t been kind to the social networking phenom. Many users complained vociferously about the new design, which was intended to add more real-time content a la Twitter but ended up looking to too many people like a cluttered mess marked by photos and friend updates that disappeared mysteriously and too many “updates” from Facebook applications that smelled like spam.
So tonight, the company put out a lengthy memo to members outlining more changes to the home page, some of them clearly in response to the critics. In particular, the new Highlights section will “mirror more closely the content that the earlier News Feed provided.” The summary, after the jump:
Add more control and relevance in the stream
One of the great parts of Facebook is the ability to share and consume different types of content, such as photos, videos and notes, all in one place. We've heard from you that you want even more variety and control in your stream, and for it to update automatically. Some specific improvements we're making are:
* Live updating: One of the most common requests is the ability to see your stream update automatically. We will be adding the ability to turn on auto updating in the near future so you no longer need to refresh the page. * Photo tags: In order to surface more photos you might like to see, we'll be adding photos tagged of your friends to the stream. This will happen in the coming weeks. * More choices for applications: We've heard feedback that there is a lot of application content appearing in the stream. We will be giving you tools to control and reduce application content that your friends share into your stream.
Currently, the content filters on the left screen allow you to select the types of content you would like to see. Over time, we'll continue to give you more control over what's in your main stream and how you consume it. We have the eventual goal of building filters that summarize this activity so you can see a more condensed view of what's been going on. We're also thinking about ways of filtering out some of the Wall posts and content directed to specific people to focus more on posts shared with everyone.
See more Highlights
Right now, we're making improvements to the Highlights section on the right-hand side of your home page. Highlights will update more frequently and will show you more content throughout the day to mirror more closely the content that the earlier News Feed provided.
Find things more easily It's important that you are able to find everything you're interested in, or we're not succeeding in giving you the right level of control. We're currently working on a few design changes to help you find these things more easily, such as:
* Moving requests to the top of the right column: Friend requests and event invites will be more prominent.
* Easier way to create a Friends List filter: From the filters on the left, you will be able to create a new list of friends with which to filter the stream.
Application bookmarks continue to live in the toolbar at the bottom left of the page. You can quickly access your groups, events and other favorite applications from the bottom bar on any page.
Some folks such as TechCrunch's Mike Arrington think Facebook should stick to its guns. I can't see how it's unwise to listen to customers, though. eBay did this kind of dance all the time with its users, and it worked well for a good decade, its recent troubles more of a strategic problem than a customer relations issue. Plus, I think Facebook's new design was getting kind of cluttered and confusing, and these moves--if carried out correctly--may help people take more control of their Facebook experience.
Whether the changes also help Facebook contend with a surging Twitter is another matter that I think only the users of both services will end up deciding.