Facebook gets another homepage makeover

The changes once again shake up the information that you see by default when you visit your home page

Facebook rolled out a revamped home page on Friday. The changes once again shake up the information that you see by default when you visit your home page on the social networking site. It demonstrates how Facebook continues to adapt and try to find the right balance of status updates and details to deliver to users.

The major changes basically boil down to this: the 'Highlights' are merged into the News Feed, and there are basically two home page views to choose from-- the News Feed and the Live Feed. The News Feed uses Facebook magic to determine the posts and updates that seem like they would be most interesting to you, and adds back in items like notifications when friends are tagged in photos, or when friends follow fan pages or join new Facebook groups, add other friends, or RSVP to events.

By contrast, the Live Feed is literally the live feed of all status updates from your entire network of friends on Facebook. While you are viewing the News Feed, a bubble next to the Live Feed link keeps a running count of the number of new updates in the Live Feed. You can also customize what shows up in the Live Feed by clicking on Edit Options at the bottom of the Live Feed page. The removal of the Highlights section from the right panel also mean that the Events box will shift up where things like friends' birthdays will be more visible.

Over the past few months Facebook has morphed through other evolutions in site design and content as well. Facebook added an option to share status updates publicly-- similar to the way Twitter tweets are available to the general public. Facebook updates are still private by default though and require you to manually change the privacy settings to allow them to be shared. It also added Twitter style '@' tags, and purchased FriendFeed, a popular niche social networking rival.

Social networking has been around for a while, but it is still embryonic, or at least in its infancy. While sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace and others at one time seemed to provide fairly unique services, the lines continue to blur as social networking evolves. Facebook traffic has increased substantially while MySpace has plummeted, and Facebook is continuing to adapt to try and become the Google of social networking rather than turning into the next MySpace.

Facebook explained the reason for the changes on its blog. "Some of you may ask why we are changing the home page again. Like you, we know it can be disruptive when things are moved around, but we hope that these changes make Facebook a more valuable experience for you."

I have no doubt that Facebook wants to provide a valuable experience, but I think there are ulterior motives in there as well. I am sure Facebook monitors the traffic and usage patterns of users very closely to figure out what works. These changes will foster more cross-traffic and more social interaction. Facebook thrives on the viral aspects of the social network and isn't necessarily trying to be a news site.

Facebook also wants to capitalize on its potential of the status update feed with deals like the one with Microsoft unveiled last week at the Web 2.0 Summit. With over 300 million users, Facebook boasts more than 45 million status updates per day, a jackpot for real-time search indexing.

I have one piece of advice to offer Facebook for the next home page revamp (at the current rate of change on Facebook that could be as early as Thanksgiving): come up with a better term than News Feed. The Live Feed seems like it would be more appropriately called the News Feed, while the News Feed is more like the highlights or most interesting stuff. The News Feed and Live Feed names are ambiguous.

Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He tweets as @PCSecurityNews and provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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