Facebook’s redesign of its News Feed, the largest since launch of the feature in 2006, gives users increased social savvy including new ways to catch up with friends by sorting through splashier photos, videos or music choices rather than being confined to parsing by "Top Stories" or "Most Recent."
The new feeds include: "All Friends," "Photos," Music" and "Following." The mobile app will reflect the changes in the next few weeks.
"This is a high-stakes move," notes the Chicago Tribune. "News Feed is indisputably the most valuable real estate on Facebook. It's the place that people get updates from their friends. And it's the place that Facebook is betting advertisers have the best shot at connecting with its 1 billion-plus users."
Facebook fatigue is smoldering as evidenced by a Pew study that says 61 percent of users had taken a sabbatical, sometimes for months at a time, citing boredom as a major reason and 20 percent had chosen a permanent break from the social site. Teenagers are deserting in droves, turning to Instagram (owned by Facebook), joined by adults swarming to Pinterest, Tumblr and Twitter.
The redesign is speculated to be more for the company's benefit rather than its users, as the seperated feeds will increase the amount of available advertising real estate that seems to be the focus of every social media site at the moment.
However, CEO Mark Zuckerberg kept the company's announcement focused on the feeds social features from his perch on stage at Facebook's Silicon Valley headquarters. "News Feed is one of the most important services that we've built. We want to give the world the best personalized newspaper that we can," he said.
Zuckerberg emphasized that stories told through photos are very different from those told with words, and the new design will have larger images, content-specific feeds and mobile consistency. The new News Feed design was "mobile inspired" for a seamless experience across all platforms. Zuckerberg explained that for a user who checks their Music feed daily, that content will jump to the top of their list, giving users more control over what they see.
That idea seems to clash with the perception of the company's ad strategy, which has employed paid and promoted posts to boost revenue. "I’ve stayed on Facebook after its repeated privacy violations partly because I foolishly believed there was some sort of democratic approach to sharing freely with others," said New York Times writer Nick Bilton. "The company persuaded us to share under that premise and is now turning it inside out by requiring us to pay for people to see what we post."
Facebook admitted that it "does change the formula quite frequently and relies on negative feedback to figure out what users don’t like," according to Gigaom.
Travis Katz, founder of Gogobot, which is integrated with Facebook said, "The noise-to-signal ratio in the feed has increased dramatically to the point where I often miss stories that were important to me."
"Our goal with News Feed is always to show each individual the most relevant blend of stories that maximizes engagement and interest. There have been recent claims suggesting that our News Feed algorithm suppresses organic distribution of posts in favor of paid posts in order to increase our revenue," the company said in a blog post. "This is not true."
While News Feed is the company's most successful feature, it debuted in 2006 to more jeers than cheers. 700,000 users threatened boycotts and un-liking of the platform, calling the feed too intrusive. Zuckerberg apologized for the way the feature was introduced but stayed the course, reassuring users that News Feed was a cool way to "know what’s going on in your friends' lives."
"Rich stories, visual and engaging, your choice of feeds and mobile consistency," pitched Zuckerberg. Is it enough of a facelift to keep Facebook on top?
Below, Facebook's videos explaining its latest changes to users: