Facebook Revamps Newsfeed, Offers More Space For Content

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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The world’s largest social network gets with the program

On Thursday, Facebook launched a major overhaul of its ‘Newsfeed’ feature that brings focus to visual content and content filtering, while at the same time offering more space to advertisers.

With the newsfeed update, the company has standardised the interface, so Facebook will now appear the same whether accessed on a desktop, tablet or a smartphone.

The changes will begin rolling out in limited fashion from Thursday, and should arrive to mobile platforms over the next few weeks.

In January, Facebook reported that 1.06 billion people were using its service at least once a month.

Picturesque

Newsfeed is the central component of the Facebook experience: it provides a stream of updates from friends and ‘liked’ organisations, including pictures, music and videos. Lately, many users have complained the interface has become “cluttered”, and displays too much information. In response, Facebook has simplified the newsfeed design and added filtering tools.

mark-zuckerberg-facebook-news-feedThe updated homepage switches from a three-column layout to two columns, letting the content take up more space. The newsfeed has been split into sections dedicated to different types of content, such as pictures, videos and music.

The relatively unknown ‘Music’ feed now has more prominence, and will feature posts from artists alongside music that user’s connections are listening to. Another important addition is the ‘Friends Only’ feed, which displays all the messages posted by all friends, shown in chronological order.

Instead of the left column, a dark pop-out bar has been added to the left-hand side of the page. It provides access to app bookmarks, links to specific friends, the chat and calendar tools.

Following the update, any posts that feature locations will now be automatically accompanied by a map. The social network has also removed the ‘Facebook’ title from the interface, leaving just the “F” logo.

Analysts predict that more space for photos will result in more space for advertising, even though a spokesperson said the filtered feeds would not feature ads in the first few months.

“We wanted to clean up the page, declutter it, make it simpler, more modern and easier for people to use,” Chris Struhar, the project’s lead engineer, told the BBC.

“I often compare this to a 1960s television with wood panelling, knobs around it and a tiny postage stamp-sized screen – and what we’re trying to do is take that same TV and translate it into a 40in HD experience,” he added.

Meanwhile, CEO Mark Zuckerberg likened the updated newsfeed to a “personalised newspaper”.

However, the fact that Google+ has been using a content-centric two-column layout for a while suggests that rather than setting the trends, Facebook is playing catch-up. “The newsfeed was kind of outdated. This sort of brings it up to maybe what’s comparable to…their competition, and partner sites that are focusing on media and richness,” Brian Blau, an analyst at Gartner, told Reuters.

Facebook said that further amendments could be made to the newsfeed, based on user feedback.

The shares of the company, which were selling at $38 during the IPO last year, closed at $28.57 on the NASDAQ on Thursday.

Just last month, Facebook introduced an all-new “graph search”, a social search engine that allows users to search through content shared by friends or made publicly available by other Facebook users.

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