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Hands-on with the new Facebook home page

As promised, Facebook delivers a new Twitter-like home page design. All the photos and apps are still there, but the friend stream is most prominent.

The new Facebook design we covered last week began rolling out to users today. And yes, it looks a lot like Twitter. An awful lot like Twitter. The home page displays updates from your friends top center, with a "What's on your mind?" box above the stream. All the photos and apps in Facebook are still there, but the new design really puts the friend stream in your face.

Facebook began rolling out its new Twitter-like home page today. Screenshot by Rafe Needleman / CNET Networks

App-driven updates from your friends also show up in the stream, so it is a very good way to keep up with what's going on in your circle. And thanks to the new prominent filter function, it's easy to see just the updates from people in your networks. This is like the mythical "groups" feature that Twitter users are waiting for. You can easily see just the updates from people at your company or school, or from a particular app, and then pop back to the full feed and see all your friends. I like the ability to hide updates from contacts I'm not especially interested in.

Facebook still isn't a direct Twitter competitor. Its "friending" concept sets it apart. On Twitter, you can follow almost anyone, even if no one is following you. On Facebook, it's more reciprocal: by default, you follow the people who follow you. See Facebook vs. Twitter: How will you stream your world?

One nit: Although Facebook calls it the "real-time stream," it doesn't auto-update. You have to refresh the page to get the latest. But overall, this is a strong update for old guys like me who want their Web services simple. It puts your friends more in front of you than the old design did, and that's what Facebook is really about.

If you don't have the new design yet, relax. Facebook said in the announcement today, "Facebook will migrate all users to the new home page slowly, so everyone should have the new home page over the coming days."

Facebook has more on its own blog.