Last week, Facebook started testing at least three different variants of a new photo viewer, all of which looked like the one Google+ currently offers: image on the left and everything else on the right. Today, the company pushed out a new photo viewer to many of its users.
Update: "We can confirm that the new photo viewer has been rolled out," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "Yes, to all users."
I have asked friends and colleagues if they're seeing the new photo viewer, and they have all confirmed that, yes, they are seeing it. Furthermore, everyone is seeing the same new one.
As you can see in the screenshot above, the image is on the left and the comments are on the right. The new format means photos shown can be even larger (the maximum resolution was increased to 960 x 960 back in August 2011, and now users can finally take full advantage), if available, since all the precious vertical space can be put to use. In some cases though, such as taller, narrow images, you'll see a smaller photo overall.
On the desktop, Facebook has more room horizontally than vertically, so it makes sense to have all extra information and comments on the side, so users don't have to scroll down to see them. I would suspect that mobile devices accessing Facebook in portrait orientation will continue to see the older design, as it makes more sense for that form factor.
Notice the "Tag Photo" and "Add Location" buttons on the right side. They look just like the Timeline and the Activity Log buttons. The ads have also been relocated to the right side, but on the other hand they are now being pushed down by the photo's comments. If my image didn't have comments, there would be two Sponsored Stories, not just one. Speaking of comments: the Comment button has been removed from the photo viewer too.
This screenshot also shows what happens when you hover over an image: previous and next arrows appear, outlined "Like" and "Tag Photo" buttons show up, as does the title of the album, and which photo you're currently viewing out of how many. What you can't see in the screenshot above is that the new photo viewer also darkens the background of the Facebook webpage while you are viewing an album, rather than just making it transparent.
Overall, it's an improvement, and one that I think we can thank Google for (see Google+ is the best thing that ever happened to Facebook).
I'm not sure if all of Facebook's 845 million monthly users have the new feature. Facebook does all of its rollouts gradually, so it's very possible that many still don't have it. What does seem to be happening today is that Facebook has chosen which new design it is going with. I have contacted Facebook for more information and will update you if I hear back.
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