What is it about Facebook that just makes people angry whenever it changes? My feed lit up this past week as person after person complained about the new layout and how horrible it was that they’ve changed everything. The same way they do every time. I’ve got friends who are threatening to go to Google+ forever and never come back to Facebook. Which is really too bad because Facebook is actually doing a lot of interesting and compelling things with their changes.
Facebook has a few major changes to their UI that are inescapable. The first and most obvious of which is a new scrolling sidebar that functions essentially like a Twitter feed, giving constant updates on your friend activity. I find this pretty annoying, but I don’t really have to look at it so it’s perfectly ignorable. The idea is that the really unimportant stuff goes here, so it’s not crowding out the interesting stories in your feed. One nice feature that’s a part of this is that it lists friends who are having birthdays and you can comment from there, rather than having to go to their pages.
It’s also automatically doing a list of what it thinks is important but integrating that with the list of all updates. Or rather “most updates”. Facebook has made the decision that you are overcrowded with updates and so you are possibly missing the most interesting ones, so it wants to help you see the stuff you really care about. For people who are completists like me, this can be troubling, but you can edit your settings on any individual friend to make sure you see everything, or see nothing.
They are also offering a new feature called Timeline, which you can get early access to if you are a Facebook Developer. I got early access to it, and I really like it. Instead of just having a profile, it has everything you’ve ever done on Facebook in a long list back to the beginning of your account. It doesn’t show everything, but you can pick highlights and show particular pictures. It’s very visual and it’s very fun.
One thing that people have been clamoring for and which will be coming soon is the ability to Dislike something. In fact you will be able hate, like, love, or any word you can think of for anything that’s been posted. The feature will be called Facebook Gestures, and I think it will be very popular as well.
You can now watch TV, listen to music, and read news stories together with your friends through Facebook. It’s a nice feature, I’m not sure how popular it will end up being, but at least it’s something you can avoid if you don’t like it.
One of my favorite features is that people can now subscribe to my posts without actually being my friend. They will only be able to see the stuff I post publicly, but it will allow me to manage my overcrowded friends list without really punishing people who want to follow me but I don’t really know.
Facebook just hit 800 million users.