Facebook testing photo viewers ripped from Google+

Facebook is testing at least three different new designs for its photo viewer. All of them look like what Google+ currently offers: image on the left and everything else on the right.

Earlier this week, Facebook began testing a new photo viewer that puts captions and comments to the right of the photo, instead of below like the current photo viewer does. There are at least three different photo viewer designs in the wild, and they all look very similar to the one Google+ currently has. Furthermore, Facebook is reportedly talking to professional photographers for feedback, according to public status updates and comments from employees cited by Inside Facebook.

The new format means photos can be even larger, since all the precious vertical space can be dedicated to them. Since on the desktop, Facebook has more room horizontally than vertically, it makes sense to have all extra information and comments on the side, so users don't have to scroll down to see them. If you're using a mobile device in portrait orientation, the current design makes more sense.

Here is how the different versions stack up, which only some Facebook users are seeing on the social network:

  • Lightbox style, meaning the image is shown in an overlay rather than on a new page. Just like for Timeline and the Activity Log, the "Tag Photo" and "Edit" options are above the image.
  • Lightbox style, meaning the image is shown in an overlay rather than on a new page. "Like" and "Tag Photo" buttons only appear when users hover over the photo.
  • Background of the page is darkened rather than making it transparent. "Like" and "Tag Photo" buttons are always present.

All the designs reportedly offer a cleaner interface than Facebook's existing photo viewer, and put the focus on the photo and the conversation around it. The ads have also been relocated to the right side, but on the other hand they are now pushed down by the photo's comments.

This isn't the first time Facebook has borrowed features from Google+, but that's really nothing too surprising. After all, when Google+ launched, it looked almost identical to Facebook. I've argued before that Google+ is the best thing that ever happened to Facebook.

I have contacted Facebook and will update you if I hear back.

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