27 Mar Facebook Plans Redesign After User Uproar
eWeek, By Nicholas Kolakowski, March 25, 2009
Facebook plans to redesign its homepage after users loudly disagreed with the social-networking site’s last round of tweaks. With Twitter and other social-networking tools gaining popularity, Facebook could face a variety of growing challenges over the next year. In just the past month, Facebook also had to address similar complaints from users who were concerned about privacy and personal data. Facebook announced on March 24 that it would adjust its homepage in response to user fervor over its new design. The social networking site’s new look had attracted an immense amount of user feedback, with a Facebook poll finding that 94 percent of respondents took issue with the changes. This is the second time in a month that Facebook had to contend with a user uproar that caused the popular social networking site to backtrack on its plans. In February, after it attempted to change its Terms of Service to claim ownership over all uploaded content. User backlash led Facebook to open its Facebook Principles and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to user review, comment and vote. Facebook’s initial redesign earlier this month included a Twitter-like “stream” where users could post what was happening to them in real-time, and this feature faced much of the users’ new ire. The new tweaks will involve adding live updating, photo tags and more choices in applications to this stream, according to Facebook. Users will also be given more granular control over the elements they see in their main stream. Facebook will also re-jigger its Highlights section to update more frequently. In addition, the homepage will be redesigned to make search and filtering functions easier, including making friend requests and event invites more prominent. “Since Facebook started in 2004, we’ve been through several redesigns,” Christopher Cox, director of product for Facebook, wrote on a corporate blog. “Each was built with the intention of making it easier to share and understand what’s going on with the people you care about.” Cox added: “Redesigns are generally hard to manage, in part because change is always hard and in part because we may miss improvements that any individual user may like to see.” The high level of user interaction, however, plays into what Facebook and other IT companies see as the way of the future: giving both users and developers tools to tailor their experience with the company’s product. To that end, just as Yahoo opened SearchMonkey to tweaking by developers, Facebook has also made its Facebook Platform available for tinkering, including the ability to customize social-messaging widgets. Facebook currently has 175 million users.