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Facebook readies new user pages, filtering tools

The social network announces two new features to its service, including a revamped way to organize and read news feeds.

Facebook explains new home page layout (click image for more from Facebook). Facebook

PALO ALTO, Calif.--Facebook on Wednesday announced major changes to the ways users could filter information, along with an overhaul to its pages feature.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg started out a morning presentation here by noting that one of the biggest trends in social networking is organizing streams of information. Sites like Twitter and MySpace were making strides in helping to organize these streams, and Facebook needs to do a better job at it, he said.

"We're at a point now of expecting this information sharing to keep moving faster and faster," he said. "Today we're taking a few steps to move in that direction. This isn't something we've been working on for a long time...We're not sure exactly where this is going to end up."

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg talks about changes in the stream of information. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

To that end, Facebook's director of product, Chris Cox, gave a quick tour of Facebook's past, including changes in privacy features and branching out from a closed, collegiate system to one that even his mom could join. All this was leading up to a new option by which, as Cox puts it, "profiles and pages become the same thing."

"Now users can open up their profiles to other users to subscribe to," Cox said. "That means pages will become more like the profile. They're going to have a presence that looks and feels just like" his mother's Facebook profile.

Some of the launch partners include CNN, U2, President Obama, The Today Show, and Michael Phelps.

Launch partners for the new public pages. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

The move, Zuckerberg said, in part is intended to help people share the two sets of information they have on the service, both for their family and friends as well followers on pages. This helps public pages become more of a broadcast medium than a shrine.

Zuckerberg added that the change will open up new avenues for revenue for advertising. "Even with our current models of advertising, those are the drivers that make it go up," he said. "In this there are new models that people will think about...once you have a connection through streams and different ways to communicate, (and) over the lifetime of that connection there are many impressions, many clicks. People will think of connecting with people as a metric."

A new look for the home page
Along with the privacy update, Facebook on March 11 is rolling out a new home page that Cox said is "focused on organizing the stream from everywhere and everyone you care about."

It will feature filters that give users granular control over the types of information the home page displays. This moves some of the navigation from the top of the page back to the left where it was before the last redesign. This includes filters for specific applications so that users see only updates from those apps. Previously these appeared in a drop-down menu.

Facebook will be pushing out the new layout to users later Wednesday in an opt-in preview version (as it did with the last major redesign), then in full to all other users on March 11. Any changes before that full launch will be from user feedback.

"What we always do is track the stats," Zuckerberg said.

Facebook is updating its home page and giving profile pages to big brands. Facebook