Facebook execs explain profile redesign

Developers this week will have a chance to test much-anticipated changes, which executives say are aimed at helping members cut down on the clutter.

This post was updated at 12:30 p.m. PDT with more detailed information and quotes.

PALO ALTO, Calif.--Facebook plans to unveil a redesign of profile pages in coming weeks to help members cut down on the clutter, executives said here at a press event Wednesday.

Executives also said they'll introduce a beta version this week that will allow developers to test the new pages before it rolls them out to members in June.

The redesign, a preview of which was released Tuesday night, slots member information under five new tabs: personal news feeds; profile information; photos; applications; and a customizable page.

As part of the redesign, Facebook is dramatically playing up the role of its News Feed, which will be the anchor, or first tab, of the new member home page. This shift is meant to make it easier for people to see dynamically changing information from friends and applications first, according to Chamath Palihapitiya, Facebook's vice president of product marketing.

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"We see this big trend," Palihapitiya said. "People are publishing feeds all the time, and the point is, people are increasingly telling a narrative, and we want to make that easier for our users to do. And we want people to consume that narrative more easily."

The company will unveil design changes at the risk of angering application developers that rely on Facebook for distribution and member usage. Designers of less popular widgets, for example, could feel somewhat marginalized by Facebook's placement of external applications on a dedicated profile tab.

Company executives, however, said the design overhaul will ultimately give developers more reason to engage with members. "We think there's more opportunity for distribution, but (also) for more meaningful application," Facebook product manager Mark Slee said.

Palihapitiya added that some developers could suffer in the more dynamic environment of News Feeds on member home pages. "Applications that are much more static in nature will not be as successful as they used to be."

Here is an overview of the changes:

The news feed will take the role of the member home page, with one stream of information that people can reformat into three different sizes. From the main page, people can also update information on new Facebook applications, post a wall message, or upload photos from one point next to the news feed.

The reason for that change, Palihapitiya said, is the company's desire to make the home page cleaner and simpler, and allow people to see dynamically changing information first.

Developers can also get front-page play through the news feeds. "Developers can integrate into the feed through the publisher box, so I could draw some graffiti or send a SuperPoke," said Facebook product manager Ruchi Sanghvi.

Facebook moves the static information on members to its second tab, or the information tab. That page will contain detailed data about the person's address, personal history, and preferences. Executives said developers can get creative with new applications that help members tell a story about who they are.

Next is a tab for photos, which are commanding a lot of attention from Facebook users, according to Palihapitiya. So far, he said, members have uploaded 6 billion photos to the site, or 14 million on a cumulative daily basis. "Photos are just one example of an application that could blow up for us," Palihapitiya said.

The profile box tab, or where applications will reside, lets people see a record of the widget they downloaded.

The last tab gives people a choice to customize a page, much like a new feature on the iPhone. People can add a new tab to highlight an application like Scrabulous that they play often. Executives said this is "a huge new opportunity for developers" that could increase advertising revenue.

That said, developers will need to try it out of themselves.

"We are going to give developers a beta period in which they will be able to step into the sandbox and tweak their application," product manager Slee said, "so that they're ready for when this thing gets rolled out in coming weeks."

 

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