The last time Mark Zuckerberg overhauled the website you check all day every day was two years ago. Two! You've probably changed a decent amount since then, but Facebook hasn't in a way that did anything but make us cringe -- until today. Here's how you'll be stalking the universe now.
The News Feed has been the way we suck information from our friends, frenemies, exes and coworkers since 2006. It has mutated since then -- complicating and simplifying itself -- as Facebook experiments with better ways to show you new statuses, photos and links. Today's overhaul introduces another way of funnelling social info into your brain, but it's bigger (wider), brighter and more eye-strangling. It's full of news. It's full of sections. It's like, according to Zuck, "a newspaper". Those old things.
It's visual progress, for sure -- Facebook has done great work sweeping away a lot of what developers call "chrome" (buttons, scrollbars, navigational detritus). What's left is the stuff you ostensibly care about, and that stuff looks swell, making the web version of Facebook match the mobile version almost perfectly -- all of the clarity and none of the cramp, it appears. All the crap and button mulch that's festered across the sides of Facebook is now swept into one clean sidebar, just like your smartphone app.
Take photo albums -- they're bigger now, with more thumbnails giving you an easier at-a-glance sense of what your friends actually did and where.
When friends (or local businesses, ahem) pop up on your new feed, you'll get more information about them too, pulling over their entire Timeline badge with all its horizontal lushness.
Plus, their location, of course -- if they chose to share it.
The new News Feed realises it has become filled with high-res photos, videos, music, apps -- a million things that make plain text statuses look quaint. So it adapts, a la Timeline, with a new look that's supposed to fill up your screen and aim straight at dazzling your eyes. It's the same old dumb photos, sure, but they're given a premium cosmetic treatment.
A shared link like the one up top -- be it a Gizmodo post or a local obituary -- will spring onto the page with a bigger preview than we've ever had before, and consolidated comments from all the rest of your friends who have shared it too. This cuts way back on sharing sprawl, and it looks more pleasant. This same consolidation will start to think for you too -- the stories (and people) you've commented on and shared dirt about before will give Facebook juice to suggest stories to you, right in the feed.
This means Facebook will talk directly to you via News Feed, as opposed to it being purely a river of friend blurbs and advertisements. We'll have to see just how smart (and intrusive) these friendly reminders are.
This sounds like a lot. It is a lot. And so Facebook is splitting up the feed into subcategories -- Music, Photos, Games, Friends -- so that you're suffocated with information at a slower, more comfortable rate.
Music, for instance, will give you blips about what songs your pals are listening to on Spotify, along with news from the artists you follow. Looking good, JT, but I'm hoping for a "Suit & Tie" remix. If you want news that's just from people you don't know -- Oprah, Pepsi, whatever -- you can filter that all into its own silo too. This screams Twitter, only burst way out of the 140-character fence.
Of course, that's not why we go to Facebook, unless we're advertising drones. We go for our friends, or a small subset of them. So there's a Close Friends feed too, which eschews all the celebs and local businesses and just brings in your roommate, boyfriend, et al. It's nice, but this is going to mean a lot more clicking, rather than just having everything that everyone does all the time thrown into one big bin.
Facebook will start rolling it out to people today. If you want to get on the waiting list for an early look, the sign up page is here.