Another day, another Facebook home page redesign. According to a blog post by Facebook engineering manager Mark Tonkelowitz, users this week were treated to a revamped news feed designed to make the user experience more like a newspaper — that is, Facebook will tell you which of your friends’ updates are worth reading.
“When you pick up a newspaper after not reading it for a week, the front page quickly clues you into the most interesting stories. In the past, News Feed hasn’t worked like that,” Tonkelowitz writes. But now, “all your news will be in a single stream with the most interesting stories featured at the top.”
The change sparked a flame war in comments on Tonkelowitz’ announcement, with users overwhelmingly opposed to the new system.
“Lame. Quite frankly I don’t want Facebook deciding who is most important in my life. I want my news feed to just go chronologically and if I want to hide posts from someone, I will,” wrote one commenter, whose note drew more than 1,500 “likes” from other users.
Other new features include a news ticker that displays updates in real-time — basically what a Facebook news feed used to do — and a new system for friends lists that seems to mimic the “circles” feature of Google+.
That resemblance isn’t a coincidence. Though Google’s social networking site has failed to live up to its substantial pre-release hype, it was recently opened to the public for beta testing, which some analysts say is making Facebook nervous.
Unlike Facebook’s “like” feature, Google “+1″s are displayed on Google’s results pages, and feed data back to Google which can personalize web surfers’ search results. Still, with millions of users already on Facebook, Google has an uphill battle to fight against existing benefits of social media that Facebook users will be reluctant to leave behind.
All of these changes come on the cusp of Thursday’s “f8” developer conference, where Facebook is expected to announce still more new features. Some possibilities include an iPad app, social video-watching or greater integration with Spotify and other music-streaming services.