Facebook’s tabloid new look

 
Dog looking at Facebook page

There are two things that are easy to predict about Facebook's revamped newsfeed. In the coming days millions will say they hate it - until the next time it is changed, when the same people will say they loved the previous version.

Over the years, Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg have been supremely confident that they know what users want long before they know it themselves - whether it is introducing photos or bringing in the original newsfeed. Mostly they have been right.

A couple of years ago I interviewed Chris Cox, the man who masterminded many of those innovations, for a radio series on social networking. He told me the introduction of the newsfeed in 2006 had sparked the single worst reaction to any change. " I remember my entire inbox being full," he told me. "Personal messages to me from friends and family. Can you please turn this thing off, we all hate it."

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Many Facebook users may find it hard to distinguish ads from stories shared by their friends”

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But newsfeed quickly became the engine room of Facebook, shaping its future, so the biggest revision so far to the feature is an important moment for the business, its users and its customers.

By customers, I mean the advertisers who pay to keep the social network going, not the one billion people around the world who use it for free. And the big question about this bold reshaping of the look and feel of Facebook is whether it will satisfy both audiences.

The users may be less shocked than by previous changes because many will be familiar already with the new look if they've used Facebook on mobile phones or tablets. The sidebar giving easy access to individual friends, apps, groups and other features is the way you navigate on the mobile version - and it now moves to the desktop.

Screengrab of BBC News feed on Facebook New-look Facebook is similar to Facebook on mobile phones

The other striking change is that every story now looks bigger and bolder, with photos getting far more prominence. That means that on any one page you will see fewer stories on your screen at any one time, making Facebook seem more like a tabloid newspaper, rather than the more broadsheet look of the past.

And prominent among the stories leaping out of the pages will be adverts. That may risk alienating users who feel queasy about having their social lives interrupted by commercial messages - but then again, will they notice?

Because Facebook advertising is evolving in such a way that many users may find it hard to distinguish it from stories shared by their friends - and indeed that is often what they are. When your friend "likes" Wiggins Widgets' new TV advert, that is likely to pop up in your newsfeed.

Rather than spend their money on standard display ads in a separate and ignorable column on the right, companies are paying to get their content right into the middle of the Facebook experience. That trend will accelerate after this redesign because newsfeed real estate will become even more valuable.

Facebook is selling the new version of newsfeed under the catchline "Goodbye clutter", insisting that it is about making the user experience better rather than boosting its advertising revenue. But if it works for users, it will make the social network more valuable for advertisers too.

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In the history of innovation, it's never received well”

End Quote Chris Cook

A year ago, in the run-up to its stock market debut, there were concerns that Facebook would not be able to make money as it moved to mobile platforms. Now, from a standing start, mobile advertising revenues are about a quarter of the business's overall income, and the lessons learned on phones and tablets are being transferred to the desktop.

Despite a difficult year which has seen many question its long-term prospects, Facebook remains a supremely self-confident company. As Cook told me, the company learned to stay calm when changes were met with initial fury. "We knew that in the history of innovation, it's never received well. You just need to have your own vision, and you need to be willing to stick to it in the face of criticism."

Of course, sometimes Facebook is forced to retreat - as with the Beacon advertising platform which users saw as a massive attack on their privacy.

But however many groups are formed to protest against the new newsfeed, however many users say they now plan to leave because of it, Facebook is almost certain to stand firm. After studying vast amounts of data on how users and advertisers behave on the network, it is convinced that its new look will prove profitable for both.

 
Rory Cellan-Jones Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 26.

    Guess everyone complaining about adverts hasn't heard of ad block?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 25.

    Yawn....

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 24.

    My company has a FB page. We've grown increasingly distrustful of FB's stats: indicating we reached nearly 10,000 people when we only have 400 likes, and posts only seen by 300? We tested them by paying to have a post promoted: we didn't reach their promised target, and we didn't get a single extra sale. Verdict: useful for instant feedback from customers, but not worth spending a penny on.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 23.

    Oh wow.... Great example there @22, it may have been a letter or two wrong, but spell check inserted entirely the wrong word because i'd use it earlier, I rest my case.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 22.

    @19
    These changes come about to make a product more accessible to technophobes, the people who double click on web links and "delete" their email by forgetting to release the mouse button and ambidexterity drag their email into the wrong folder.

    In my opinion we shouldn't be making IT easier to use for idiots, we should be making those idiots learn to use it properly in the first place!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 21.

    Facebook is a business, its revenue comes from advertisers, not from the one billion user-base.

    Providing the new layout is met with approval from its advertisers, why would they care what the users think?

    Close account, ALT+F4, delete cookies and browsing history.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 20.

    There is nothing new about people objecting to change, especially when applied to something they consider personal and their own - like their FB content. That is a good sign and if the changes ultimately make sense they will adapt.

    The big problem is getting advertising accepted in peoples personal space. It just isn't to the vast majority.

    Force feeding this even harder is going backwards.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 19.

    Timeline finished facebook for me, just as google mails new look screwed itself.
    Why do these companies have to tinker with something and not allow you to keep the old look
    Give people the chance to keep what they enjoyed and if they want to change let them choose instead of forcing it

    What I found sinister about googles mail change was that the google search didnt show all complaints on the web

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 18.

    The only way to improve face book is with the delete button

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 17.

    Websites are talking about how fb users complain about changes, personally I think it's because fb has many problems on all formats including connection issues and photo uploading, it would be nice if they fixed all of these issues rather than constantly making changes to the interface which don't usually improve on anything. Hopefully they will leave it alone after this and fix all the bugs.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 16.

    It's effectively a rip off of the Google+ interface, other tech journalists have noticed this, why hasn't Rory?. In fact everything Facebook has done in the last year has been a rip off of G+.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 15.

    Are they finally going to dump timeline? or will that piece of rubbish remain the same?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 14.

    If you want to improve facebook, after you login press ALT + F4

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 13.

    I like the UI on my mobile, but that's not so much because of the layout, more the total lack of adverts.
    Making the adverts worse and too `in your face` on the desktop site will simply mean more people accessing from their phones to skip the adverts which in turn means less revenues for the website.

    its hardly rocket science.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 12.

    Advertising keeps it free, we all get that, but will they please hurry up with a premium option, say £10 a year where I can have full control and no adverts.

    The volume of junk cute pics, likes, missing dogs, lucky charms etc etc is getting ridiculous. Everyone I know is moaning about the volume of cr&p on there now.

    Come on Google+. Step it up.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 11.

    If the change makes life easier and management more transparent I am all in favour. I count myself as IT literate having designed and managed websites and Wordpress blogs but Facebook's administration and terminology is baffling to me most of the time. Most users struggle with security make poor use of the features. I too deactivated my account and after some months found it was still active.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 10.

    Is this a news article or an advert?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 9.

    FFB's update looks just like the BBC layout on this page,foro example.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 8.

    I had noticed adverts in my news feed some time ago, sneakily creeping in. I reported them as spam because there is enough room for adverts down the side of the page where they are already. I do find myself staying off facebook for longer these days, mainly I suspect because of the lack of original content, as has already been mentioned. Too many people "sharing" other junk.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 7.

    I've tried Facebook and it never really worked for me, but for youngsters who have time on their hands it's a great toy, especially if Mum & Dad are paying the mobile phone bills!

    I deactivated my account a month or so ago and haven't missed it at all, too many people 'liking' someone else's picture or comment, not enough original material being posted, too many games app's.

 

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