The Ever-Changing Face of Facebook


With the advent of another quarter comes another sweeping round of changes from our good friends at Facebook. In what is becoming a weird mix of techie tradition and rage-inducing behavior for the average Joe, Facebook will be rolling out a barrage of new updates over the upcoming weeks.

Now that the inevitable initial backlash has subsided, let’s dive in and look at what’s ahead.

Timeline

The most significant update is the introduction of the Timeline – Facebook’s version of an online scrapbook. Once it’s been fully rolled out, the Timeline will replace the user’s profile page and will more closely resemble a blog, complete with a header image, summary bio information and a quick overview of friends, photos, likes and notes.

Scrolling further down the Timeline, you’ll see highlights from the user’s Facebook footprint over the years, laid out in reverse chronological order. Scroll down far enough, and you’ll see a hilarious new section for the user’s birth.

Yes, Facebook is no longer content with shaping our present and future. Zuckerberg & Co. have now devised a way to retroactively insert themselves into our past, too.

All joking aside, the interface is fairly intuitive and fun. While some have raised privacy concerns, as with every other service that Facebook offers, Timeline only works with the information that its users provide. Preventing photos or life events from being made public is as simple as not posting them.

News Ticker

If the Timeline is the most visually appealing new update, the News Ticker is probably the least (and possibly most annoying).

The Ticker is like status updates on steroids, providing running commentary – er, updates – whenever one friend comments on another friend’s photo, comment, etc.

Whereas previously a user’s interaction with their friends’ updates was mostly limited to the ones they commented on or liked (triggering notifications whenever someone else subsequently commented on the same item), Ticker operates from the assumption that users don’t want to miss a single instance of activity between any of their friends.

While I’m not necessarily opposed to the concept of the Ticker, in its current iteration, it definitely feels like information overload. It would be preferable if this feature could simply be hidden or deactivated.

Subscribe

Taking a page from Twitter, Facebook now makes it possible to subscribe to a user’s profile, rather than adding them as a friend. So in case you want to follow (a la Twitter) someone you don’t know on Facebook without the creep factor of adding them as a friend, now you can just subscribe to their updates. Then again, maybe that is the creepier of the two options…

Smart Friends lists

Oh, Facebook, again with the blatant Twitter homages. Their new “smart” Friends lists are exactly what they sound like: Facebook creates and auto-populates certain default categories (work, school, family, city) of Friends to allow users to easily view updates only from contacts in that particular group.

This isn’t necessarily a bad update, but it’s probably only truly useful for those who are approaching their 5,000 friend limit and need an easy way to slice and dice their friend-base.

Recent Stories vs. Top Stories

Finally, Facebook has revamped the way updates are displayed in the home news feed. In the past, users had the option to choose between “All Updates” – activity from all friends displayed in reverse chronological order – or “Top News,” which was aggregated and ordered based on Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm.

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