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Facebook Unveils News Feed with New Look

Live updates from the launch event at Facebook headquarters.
March 7, 2013

1:45 p.m. And we’re out! Zuckerberg has left the front of the room. I’m running over to join the Zuck scrum … thanks for tuning in!

1:35 p.m. That’s it for the presentation. Now we’re doing a Q&A with the whole team.

Question: You didn’t mention ads—how will this affect those?

Answer: The idea of making things richer, more immersive, includes ads.

Q: Previously you guys used fancy algorithms to decide what was included in the News Feed. Are those still used, or will the user get more control?

A: The idea going forward is for the News Feed to behave “like a newspaper would.” The ranking algorithm won’t change, but there will be more sections—essentially, like in a newspaper.

Q: Facebook has offered different feeds at the top of the main homepage. Why move away from that before and come back to it now?

A: There are more types of content, more audiences, more publishers in the system now.  It has to do with the ecosystem, Chris says.

Q: What about Pages?

A: This won’t impact the layout of pages, Chris says.

Q: How are you going to treat Instagram? It’s separate now—will it be integrated?

A: It’s treated the same as all other Open Graph apps, Zuck says. He adds that over time Instagram will help Facebook build better integrations for the whole ecosystem of social apps.

Q: Will users see more suggestions and more ads? And will this lead to more targeted ads?

A: Zuckerberg says Facebook is seeing more demand, but they don’t necessarily want to push more content to the News Feed. Their data suggests they have the right rate now, although people often want to drill down into specific topics. The goal is to make it so people can find the content they want, he says.

Q: News Feed is the same for everyone across the globe. How will that experience change now that everyone can have a different experience? Will people feel more separate from their friends?

A: Zuck says everyone already has a different experience on News Feed. He adds that almost 60 percent of people that use Facebook come back every day, but people can still miss things. If something important happens—your cousin has a baby, for example—you want that stuff to be on the top because you don’t want to miss it. The most important stuff will still be on the front page.

1:32 p.m. Up next is VP of product Chris Cox, who’s talking about mobile consistency. Chris says the idea was to get Facebook “out of the way as much as possible,” to focus on content. He says having a small screen forces you to simplify and pare down, and that the new News Feed is a “very mobile-inspired Web design” (this is something we’ve been seeing more of lately from various companies).

The tablet and phone navigation haven’t really changed much, Cox says, but the PC version of News Feed has. It’s much more like the mobile version, and he says it’s easier to navigate without having to come back to the homepage.

It’s also “nice and consistent,” Cox says, so content should look the same on different screens. Little details, he mentions, have been brought from the phone to the PC: a little bubble that lets you know there are new stories, for example. “It’s amazing how much more modern and clean this feels just because we’ve adapted a lot of the design principles from the phone and brought them over to the Web,” he says.

They’ll start rolling this out today in a limited way. As soon as it’s “super polished,” they’ll roll it out more broadly.

1:27 p.m. Overall, it looks bolder, brighter, with lots of bigger photos. But, of course, there is more! Chris Struhar, technology lead, is here to talk about choice of feeds. He’s talking us through the new subfeeds they’re rolling out. They spent a lot of time talking to people to see what they care about, he says, and found that people wanted more choice and control over the stories they see on their homepage.

Today’s News Feed shows a surface level of updates, photos, and music people post about. In the future you’ll have great control over which of these feeds you see, he says. You can jump to any of the different feeds using a little box at the top of the page we glimpsed earlier.

First is the “All Friends” feed. This will show all the posts from your friends in a single place. All of them, people. This is a lot. You can also see a “Music” feed. This will highlight what friends are listening to, concerts near you, albums coming out, updates from musicians you like. There’s also a “Photos” feed that shows all the photos your friends are posting. And there’s a “Following” feed, which lets you see all the posts from the pages and people you “like” in a single place. So if you follow MIT Technology Review, you can see all our stuff there. The feeds are sorted by how often you use them and are available on desktop and mobile, he says.

1:24 p.m. Now Zhou is talking about Pinterest, and how pins on Pinterest will show up with bigger photos on Facebook. This will be the case for other services, she says. The new design also gives lots more prominence to videos. You can see a bigger version of the video in the News Feed, play it there, and hover over friends’ faces on the left side to see what they’re saying about it.

You will also see content custom tailored to you, she says. Facebook knows what people are sharing, so it can show you the most-shared articles for a particular site— for example, the best of NPR that day. She talks about Taylor Swift—apparently she loves her. If you have “liked” like Miss Swift you’ll see trending articles about her.

They’re rolling this out on the desktop and on mobile.

1:15 p.m. Julie Zhou, director of design, takes the stage. She shows the current home page, and the section devoted to News Feed, which takes up about 40 percent of the screen.

She says most the News Feed is what matters to most people, and the rest of the page is just clutter. So they decided to focus on the stories–the things people want to share with their posts–with the new design. She shows an example with a photo of some folks laughing together, posted by a friend of hers. In the new News Feed, photos will be more “immersive”–in other words a whole lot bigger.

There will also be changes to photo albums you share. You’ll see one big photo and four little thumbnails right below it, all nicely arranged. The stories you share from publications to look better. So they’re including bigger pictures, logo of publisher, longer summaries. 

Restaurant images will be bigger too. And when someone posts about a place and checks in, their post will include a little map that you can click on. The example shown includes a post about Yosemite and a little map of the park.

1:11p.m. Zuckerberg says there is no other social service like this at scale. He notes that over time, the News Feed has changed. Initially, it was mostly composed of text; now, it’s mostly composed of visual content. Almost 50 percent of content in average News Feed is now photos or visual content, we learn. 

Since the end of 2011, the amount of content fed to News Feeds from pages and public figures people follow has risen to almost 30 percent of the total. “How we’re all sharing is changing,” he says, and the News Feed should reflect this. He now shows us the new design. It has much bigger images. You can choose between various types of feeds in the top right corner—to dig into the music your friends are listening to, for example.

1:07 p.m. Oh, here he is—Zuckerberg just entered. He’s thanking us for coming, and says we’ll talk about a new design for News Feed that they’re excited to show us. Our mission, he says of Facebook, is to make the world more open and connected. News Feed helps do this, he says. The goal of it is to give everyone in the world the best-personalized newspaper they can. 

The News Feed should have content from family and friends, from the rest of the world, and offer the ability to drill down into any topic you want to discuss, Zuckerberg says. It should have a top news section and let you drill down into individual topics, he says. It should also be “visual, rich, and engaging.” The new design reflects this, he says. He pulls up an early vision of News Feed, from 2007, on the screen behind him. You should be able to share any info you want on it, he says, and share with any audience you want—publicly with anyone, or just with friends. The types of stories we tell when communicating with a photo instead of text are different, and you should be able to tell both, adds Zuckerberg.

1:03 p.m. The room is crowded, but not as packed as the company’s graph search event back in January. Looks like fewer Facebook employees are here. We’re still waiting on an executive, presumably Zuckerberg. And I’m wishing I’d grabbed another one of the delicious scones laid on for the media.

I will be providing live updates from Facebook’s media event today, which focuses on its redesign of the News Feed—the endless scroll of status updates, photos, and ads that you see after logging in to the social network.

The company needs to focus on keeping users engaged on the site as other social networks (including Facebook-owned Instagram) proliferate. Speculation about the changes include the possibility that Facebook will add additional mini-feeds segmented by content (such as one just for photos), as well as bigger, more targeted ads. Check back here in a bit to see what happens!

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