Just days ahead of the F8 Developer Conference, Facebook has rolled out a handful of design changes and new features. Here are a few highlights:
The biggest and most-controversial change is the Live Ticker, which displays a real-time stream of your friend’s latest actions. You can click on any of the stories in the feed, and quickly comment on it without leaving the page. Facebook’s goal is to increase engagement and retention on the site. However, many users are complaining about the seemingly repetitive nature of seeing a Facebook feed inside a Facebook feed.
Facebook is now using a new algorithm to dig-up content it thinks worthy of your attention. Also, Top Stories are no longer shown in chronological order – but rather in order of importance. So if you haven’t logged in for a while, it’s possible you’ll see older content at the top of your wall (with Facebook figuring that this content is more relevant). Facebook engineer Mark Tonkelowit summed it up this way in a recent blog post:
“Now, News Feed will act more like your own personal newspaper. You won’t have to worry about missing important stuff. All your news will be in a single stream with the most interesting stories featured at the top. If you haven’t visited Facebook for a while, the first things you’ll see are top photos and statuses posted while you’ve been away. They’re marked with an easy-to-spot blue corner.”
Smart Lists where originally released in mid September, but the new design makes them a bit easier to manage. The idea is to organize friends into lists based on relationships (or any other categorization you want). This lets you selectively post updates to just certain friends. To get you started Facebook automatically creates lists for you, such as people living near you, fellow classmates, or coworkers. So, you now have more control when posting photos of your Saturday night keg stand.
Increased character limits
Previously there was a 500 character limit for any Facebook post. Today you post up to 5,000 characters. Part of this change is a direct response to the rise of microblogging platforms, like Tumblr and Posterous. Now with mores space for waxing poetic and deeper discussions, Facebook hopes to keep you engaged on the site for even longer.
The subscribe button lets people who are not friends get your updates anyway. This makes most sense for public figures or business leaders who want to publish, but don’t want to add total strangers as friends. Facebook hopes this feature will add a Twitter-like engagement with people in the news.
Fan Page changes
Although major changes are rumored to be coming soon to Fan Pages, this redesign includes only one minty-fresh feature: the Friend Activity tab. It’s a tab that goes on the pages of retailers and companies and such, letting you see all of your friends’ interactions with that brand.