Facebook updates its interface (sort of)

Logged into Facebook today (who doesn’t?), and was surprised to see the new interface, added just in time for the new school year and thus just before increased usage of the service will start. Added were two features – firstly, a “News Feed” that displays when you first login, instead of the old notification page that most people just clicked through. Besides displaying the usual notifications (new friend confirmations, upcoming birthdays), which have been relocated to a sidebar, it displays an RSS-style feed of all things that have changed or been updated with your friends.

Things like friends’ status updates, new friends of your friends, new photos of your friends, and groups that you friends have joined/left are listed, along with when these actions occurred. Basically, most of things that people would browse around for about their friends have been nicely aggregated into one page for easier viewing, making the service easier to use and more relevant. However, it’s almost information overload – I don’t really need to see every status update on what groups my friends have joined or left, do I?

Additionally, it makes it easier to snoop in on what your friends are doing on Facebook and when they’re online – though it should be noted that all the information posted in the News Feed was always publically available; this just makes it dead simple to find all of it.

The second feature that was added was what they called a “Mini News Feed”, which is displayed on every personal user’s profile. It’s basically the same as your News Feed, except it displays only the updates for that user/friend – again making it easier to keep track of your friends and what they’ve been doing, which only serves to further improve Facebook’s social networking ability.

I agree with TechCrunch’s assessment that Facebook “gets it right” when it comes to social networking – it’s more about making the end user experience better than just about increasing pageviews, and often the two are conflict. Other sites just can’t compare, in my opinion. My only suggestion for improvement would be to have some sort of settings page for the News Feed so what’s displayed can be customized.

Nothing’s changed with privacy?

However, I disagree with Facebook’s assertion that these changes “do not give out any information that wasn’t already visible“, at least in principle. While it’s true that before you could have constantly scanned each and every one of your friend’s profiles in order to figure out when they had joined certain groups, posted wall messages or otherwise updated their profile, this would have been very tedious and time-consuming, and only the most dedicated stalkers would be able to keep up. The new features make this pseudo-voyeurism all too easy. (You could have also written a scraper before, but this would probably have been against the TOS)

If there’s anything good about these changes, it’s that it’ll make people think twice about posting incriminating or otherwise personal information that they would normally want to remain private. It may also force users to reconsider who they really want to add as a “friend”, and how they want their privacy to be set.

I’ll still be using it

Of course, I’m not going to stop using Facebook. But, maybe the way I use it will change – and most likely this will be true with many other users, if the newest Facebook group, entitled “The New Facebook is Freaky as Sh*t“, is in any indication of this. How did I learn of this group? By noting that a friend of mine had just joined it, as of 11:17 PM EST tonight.

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