Facebook rolls out redesigned profile pages

Users can opt for the redesign now or wait for it to be rolled out to everyone in the coming weeks

Facebook on Sunday introduced a redesign of its user profile pages in advance of an interview on the "60 Minutes" news show where CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained the redesign.

The changes include a clustered listing of biographical information under the user name at the top of the page, including such details as the person's job, hometown, relationship status, where they went to college, what languages they speak and birthdate. Beneath that will appear a set of the five most recent photos that a user allows to be posted at their profile page. There also is a new sports category under interests, where users can list their favorite sports, teams and athletes.

Although in her taped interview with Zuckerberg, Lesley Stahl said that viewers of the show Sunday night were the first to see the redesign, the new look had actually debuted early Sunday morning in a promotional clip for the show at the CBS News website. The redesign was also announced later in the day at the Facebook blog by software engineer Josh Wiseman.

The TV interview focused much more on how Facebook came to be, its culture, issues related to users' privacy, and its efforts to make inroads in the search market than on the redesign. Zuckerberg said that he and his Harvard University friends who created what became Facebook as a way to connect students there never imagined that their creation would "lead the whole Internet in this direction" of social networking. Stahl, who had interviewed him in the past, said that Zuckerberg is more relaxed now than he was then, even if he still seldom blinks.

A dozen designers worked on the redesign in a "war room" where a clock ticked down the time they had left to complete the update, according to the "60 Minutes" account, which showed the redesign using Zuckerberg's page (he's a Yankees fan, the new sports category reveals about his baseball interests).

The revamping of profile pages, which had been expected, is already being rolled out to any of the site's 500 million users who are interested in changing the look of their Facebook pages now. Those who opt to wait will find their pages automatically revamped in the coming weeks, according to Facebook. Visually, the new design makes more use of photographs users have posted at their pages and displays those more prominently, including photos of friends.

Users will also now be able to "highlight the friends who are important to you, such as your family, best friends or teammates," the blog says. New groups of friends or the featuring of existing friends lists also is part of the redesign. Interests and activities also now have more focus on the profile pages and are more in evidence.

The redesign, as with all aspects of Facebook, is aimed in part at appealing to advertisers and marketers who mine information about users from the site. But it also is meant to make it easier for people to find information on friends and to provide "a more compelling visual experience."

The site's constantly controversial privacy settings have not been altered in the redesign. Stahl addressed privacy by raising with Zuckerberg that third-party applications share information about users. He insisted in response: "It's against all of our policies for an application to ever share information about our users." Stahl interrupted him to say, "but they do," which prompted Zuckerberg to say that those third-party applications are shut down.

As always with any Facebook change, users were quick to express criticism and support. "Horrible design and against near every solid UI principle in web design," wrote user Shawn Hesketh, who on his Facebook page is identified as the owner of LeftLane Designs in Houston. Christopher Bradshaw of Liverpool, England, decried the changes as "not fair" because he uses Facebook for business purposes including paying for advertising at the site, and the changes alter layouts of those ads and promotions making some appear "tiny," he wrote in response to Wiseman's blog announcement.

But user Craig Gunnels of San Antonio, Texas, wrote simply, "love the new profile page!" Others in response to Wiseman's post noted that some people simply don't like change and will adjust to the new look with time.

Other users expressed confusion because their profile pages had not changed. Although on "60 Minutes," Stahl said that the redesign would roll out on Monday, users were able to make the updates on Sunday. Those who want to change the look of their pages immediately can do so by going to a Facebook page that explains the changes and offers a link at the bottom to update now.

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Nancy Weil

IDG News Service
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