Facebook's new News Feed: Bigger is better

The social-networking giant today unveiled changes to the site in an aim to make the Facebook experience more unified across devices like computers, smartphones, and tablets.

Facebook's redesigned News Feed will be the same for mobile and desktop. Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Facebook today unveiled a redesigned News Feed that incorporates bigger images and allows customization, giving the site a much-needed overhaul that the company hopes will ultimately keep user attention and attract advertisers.

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg noted Facebook's goals for the new News Feed are richer story design, choice of different feeds, and a consistent experience on mobile devices and desktop Web browsers.

"What we're trying to do is give everyone in the world the best personalized newspaper we can," Zuckerberg said. "The best personalized newspaper should be intricate, rich, and engaging."

The changes include a redesigned layout with larger images of maps, news articles, photos, and apps information, like a Pinterest post. Users can choose to sort the feed chronologically or only look at things like what music people are listening to or what events are happening. And depending on the things a user has liked on Facebook in the past, he or she will see articles that are trending and that are most relevant.

The company noted it has several new feeds to explore in addition to the same News Feed users have today. They include:

  • All Friends -- a feed that shows you everything your friends are sharing
  • Photos -- a feed with nothing but photos from your friends and the Pages you like
  • Music -- a feed with posts about the music you listen to
  • Following -- a feed with the latest news from the Pages you like and the people you follow

Chris Cox, vice president of product at Facebook, said the company wanted a "more modern and clean" interface for users. He noted the company took design principles from phones and tablets and brought them over to the Web.

Facebook's News Feed includes several new streams for users. Facebook
The redesigned News Feed will start rolling out to a small number of people on the Web today and will then show up on phones and tablets over the next few weeks.

"Because this is a big change on the Web, we're going to be very careful and slow in how we move it out," Cox said. When the product is more "polished," it will be rolled out broadly.

Meanwhile, Greg Marra, a product manager at Facebook, posted some tips for developers on the company's blog. Notably, because all images are bigger -- including items shared through apps -- developers need to use higher-resolution images. Facebook recommends 600x600-pixel images or a minimum of 200x200.

The new design also features bookmarks like before, but they now are "more relevant for people" and show up on every page.

"Bookmarks are an important way for people to re-engage with apps, and we've made improvements so people can quickly access the games and apps they use the most," Marra said. "These ever-present bookmarks will also display the notification counter from the most recent game requests to help drive re-engagement with players."

The changes shown today are the first big overhaul of News Feed, the first page people see when logging into the site, since Facebook debuted the product in September 2006. The changes could have significant, far-reaching consequences that affect how people use Facebook and determine whether the social network can capitalize on its most prized asset without driving people away.

The new News Feed, on the right, includes larger images as compared to the older version on the left. Facebook
News Feed may have been due for an update, but that doesn't mean users are going to like it. Facebook often tweaks its offering and introduces new items to its site, but few changes are as noticeable as the ones made to News Feed. That means few have as big a chance to freak out users. Even the slightest adjustments, like the ability to sort by Top Stories or Most Recent -- a feature added in late 2011 -- have angered Facebook users who resent change.

As CNET noted yesterday , Facebook needs an updated News Feed to help it regain the status it has lost with teens , a group of digital trendsetters who will determine whether the social network can withstand the test of time or become the next Friendster.

The new, image-centric feed may give these youngsters, who have a predilection for Instagram, a reason to stay and browse a little while longer.

"For users who spend a lot of time on the News Feed, they can quickly exhaust the available stories," said Hussein Fazal, chief executive of online advertising company Adknowledge. "The 'switcher' allows users to scroll though several different news feeds based on what they are looking for -- images, games, music, news, best friends, all friends...This will result in more time spent overall on the Facebook News Feed -- and of course increase engagement with content and ads."

Updated at 11:15 a.m. PT and again at 12:35 p.m. PT with a comment from an online advertising company and information from a Facebook developer blog post.
 

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