News Column

Facebook's New News Feed Has Bigger Photos, Choices

March 7, 2013

Facebook showed off a redesign of its News Feed on Thursday that features bigger pictures, a cleaner look and a series of optional feeds that will let users focus on photos, music or other specialized topics.

The new design could eventually let Facebook show users more advertisements in the stream of updates and posts that users view, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, but he suggested the change will be gradual.

While the main News Feed page will still rank posts according to Facebook's formula for calculating what users want to see -- based on their past likes and those of their friends -- Zuckerberg said users also will be able to switch to a specialized stream showing just photos or just music and concert news. If they wish, users can also switch to a stream that shows every post from all their friends, or from the commercial pages and businesses that a user has liked.

Those specialized feeds will be like the sections of a newspaper, Zuckerberg said. "We view ourselves as a medium" for all kinds of information and other content that Facebook users want to share, he added.

The new design represents the biggest change to Facebook's News Feed in nearly two years. Previous revisions have sparked a backlash from users who did not like changing from what they were used to. But Facebook executives said the company believes the new design responds to users' requests. They add that it will be introduced gradually to waves of users, so the company can take their feedback into account.

Facebook executive Chris Cox said the design is also intended to look the same on all kinds of screens, from desktop computers to tablets and smartphones. The design -- which includes some elements that resemble the design of other social-networking sites, such as Google+ -- most resembles what Facebook now looks like on mobile devices.

Executives said Facebook is removing much of the "clutter" that now appears on side columns of the News Feed page on desktop computers. While they did not say how this affects advertising, which is now often displayed on the right side of desktop screens, experts say it likely means Facebook will put more emphasis on inserting ads or "sponsored stories" into the main stream of updates.

Some analysts have warned that Facebook must be careful not to alienate users by showing too many ads, but the company's use of "Sponsored Stories" has already allowed it to build a sizable mobile advertising business, expected to exceed $1 billion annually, or more than a quarter of Facebook's overall advertising revenues.



Source: (c)2013 San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.