Facebook News Feed: 5 Coolest Changes

Brighter, less cluttered and mobile-ready, Facebook's revamped News Feed has some positive improvements for users.
 Facebook's Futuristic Data Center: Inside Tour
Facebook's Futuristic Data Center: Inside Tour
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With the exception of Facebook Graph Search -- which was significant for some of the wrong reasons -- the new features Facebook has rolled out recently have been pretty underwhelming. That is definitely not the case with Facebook's new News Feed. And because News Feed is the feature Facebook users interact with most on a daily basis, these changes will be that much more significant.

So what can you expect, and what will the changes mean in context? Here are five of the most interesting things about the News Feed's new look and feel.

1. Your News Feed will look very different overall.

While Facebook has made some big interface changes in the past (a la the Timeline), the News Feed has looked pretty much the same for a while. Now, Facebook is focusing on streamlining the News Feed interface, reducing clutter and making everything look fresher and brighter. It's pretty impressive. Photos, especially, will look better and bigger, which gives businesses new reason to focus on images as they update their Facebook presence.

"With Facebook's move to larger photos and video thumbnails, businesses will now need to focus more on presenting stunning, compelling visual content more than ever," said Jake Wengroff, founder of social business consultancy JXB1. "With the rise of Pinterest and YouTube, companies have clearly recognized the value of quality photos and videos, and with Facebook now providing more dedicated real estate to these digital assets, even more of an emphasis -- and more time and dollars -- needs to be spent on presenting a company's products and services visually."

[ Does Facebook's News Feed makeover take a page from Google+'s book? Facebook's New Look Pays Homage To Google+. ]

2. You will have a choice of feeds.

With the new News Feed, you will be able to choose from among several feeds dedicated to specific content, including music, friends, people and organizations you are following and photos. This was a very smart move on Facebook's part because many users have been expressing frustration about News Feeds laden with so many promoted posts, suggested pages and updates from all those brands they have liked that it was hard to discern content they actually wanted. But beyond reducing clutter, the new vertical feeds should also make the Facebook experience more productive for users overall.

"The Facebook News Feed changes are designed to improve user interaction," said Ari Lightman, professor and director of the CIO Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. "They are creating more levels of personalization for users as opposed to putting everything in the News Feed and having an EdgeRank algorithm try to assess what is important for its members. That [model] is meeting with resistance as interaction and number of friends and pages grows. Members are simply missing things that they might deem important, and sponsored pages are having a difficult time getting users' attention in a morass of content."

3. Mobile is no longer Facebook's red-haired stepchild.

Facebook has not been known for its mobile strategy, but with this redesign it has taken a "mobile-first" approach, ensuring that the News Feed looks as good and works as well on smartphones and tablets as it does on PCs. With the number of smartphone and tablet users increasing, and with users continuing to live more of their lives on these devices, this change was critical to Facebook's future.

4. Time is on users' side.

Facebook will still make some decisions for you (in terms of what content it thinks you want to see and from whom), but more content will be displayed chronologically rather than by what Facebook deems "Most Important."

5. Facebook has taken Google+ cues.

As InformationWeek's Tom Claburn noted today, Google+ Circles seem to have had some influence on the new News Feed design. One thing people really like about Google+ is that with Circles, you can categorize your social presence like you do your life. For example, you may share some content with people in your Professional circle and other content with people in your Friends circle. It's not totally clear to what extent you can drill down into your Facebook friends with the new News Feed, but it appears that you can share content specifically with "Close Friends," as opposed to "Acquaintances." Facebook will have to do a lot better than that to convince people who find the network unprofessional to participate, but it's a start.

Facebook will be rolling out the new News Feed during the next few weeks. You can also try and get it earlier by signing up for the waiting list (at the bottom of this page).

Are you looking forward to the new News Feed? Do you think it will change the way you or your organization use Facebook? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.

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