Facebook announced the unveiling of the social networking site's latest redesign today but I refrained from posting until I was able to actually try it out for myself.
After continually hitting refresh on the special preview URL (Facebook is taking a cautious approach and only rolling out the new design to users in phases), a short while ago I finally gained access. Here are a few initial impressions:
- The new design borrows from the iPhone version of Facebook. This is actually a good thing, since the iPhone-optimized version of Facebook, though offering less functionality, really improved on the site's user interface. In particular, the use of tabs to section off different elements of Facebook - activity stream (the wall including status updates), profile, photos - has been inherited from the iPhone app.
- Facebook wants to be your lifestream. While Facebook has always offered a degree of lifestreaming functionality, this was recently enhanced with the ability to comment on posted items, activity updates and other "wall" items. The redesign brings the lifestream more to the surface, and combined with commenting, feels a lot like the features offered by FriendFeed (see TechCrunch). Similar to the way Facebook offers Twitter functionality (status updates) for "the rest of us", the site may fill the void that FriendFeed is targeting for more mainstream users who don't want to sign up to separate lifestreaming service.
- A much greater emphasis on publishing content. The redesign, in conjunction with the lifestream (see above), puts Facebook's content creation tools to the top of the agenda. This is important to new users who are now much more likely to "get it" in terms of a large element of the site's utility - sharing news, links, photos and updates etc - as well engaging existing users who will now spend more time on the site. More publishing of content means more consumption too, and so on.
- Third-party apps by default are almost hidden. Third-party apps? What third-party apps? Although I don't have many installed, they are now all hidden in their own "Boxes" tab, rather than being on my main profile by default. This may encourage developers to create apps that are less gimmicky or viral for viral's sake, and are either more productive or more engaging in a fun and entertaining way. In other words, apps that are appealing enough to get me to click on my "Boxes" tab or create a dedicated tab for the app itself.