If you're the type of Facebook user who gets upset when the social networking giant introduces format changes, you'll likely have some mixed feelings about the redesigned News Feed unveiled by founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday.
But for those who may have tired of boring information about what your least favorite friends liked or commented on may be grateful for what is promised to be a new, "uncluttered look."
Evolution at Work
"This design reflects the evolving face of News Feed," said Zuckerberg at the company's Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters, according to The New York Times.
The new features allow separation of items by music, photos, all friends and those you are following, and allow photos taken and posted by phone -- up to half of all News Feed items come from phones these days, Zuckerberg said -- to display better. It will also make the appearance of Facebook more uniform on your computer, tablet or smartphone screen. A sticky menu stays on the left-hand side no matter where you go on Facebook, and you can easily get to the top of the feed whenever a new item arrives.
"We've completely rebuilt each story to be much more vibrant and colorful and highlight the content that your friends are sharing," Facebook insists on its news page announcing the changes. "Photos, news articles, maps and events all look brighter and more beautiful."
You likely won't be seeing the changes in the immediate future, though. Like Graph Search -- the last updated feature which allows searching Facebook's near-billion members as well as pages through criteria other than names -- it will debut only in beta version for an exclusive few to take for a spin before its prime time release in the next few weeks.
If you're antsy, you can get on a waiting list by signing up at www.facebook.com/newsfeed.
Facebook says the changes will hit iPhones and iPads first, and Android-powered devices later on.
Since its debut in 2004, Facebook has undergone numerous design changes from its basic appearance to minor tweaks. The most poorly received was Timeline, which replaced the standard profile with a chronological display of all a user's posts and life events. It forced users to sort through their entire history to see which posts should or shouldn't be seen by whom.
As of Thursday afternoon, a Facebook group called Timeline Sucks had more than 46,000 members.
Change Is Needed
The News Feed changes aren't likely to garner that kind of opposition, though, and Facebook desperately needs to keep users engaged at a time when fatigue may be setting in.
As we reported this week, Facebook noted in its annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission that "some of our users, particularly our younger users, are aware of and actively engaging with other products and services similar to, or as a substitute for, Facebook."
Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group said Facebook still doesn't have a viable rival that could knock it off its throne. But he said the News Feed changes "should make Facebook far more useful and far less annoying, which should at least slow folks leaving the service and could stop the trend. I do think this was necessary to keep folks engaged and advertisers happy."
It is also likely the new design makes it easier for ads to display bigger and perhaps more often in the News Feed. Facebook executives sidestepped questions on that topic at the conference, the Times said.