Facebook last night showcased a revamped News Feed that reflects the increasingly visual nature of user-generated content while also adding new, more specific content filters for users.
The social-networking giant said its redesigned News Feed, which will be rolled out to a small number of users starting today, now provides a more consistent experience across its web and mobile platforms.
"We're trying to give everyone in the world the best personalised newspaper we can," Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at a press conference at the company's Menlo Park, Calif. headquarters.
To that end, new News Feed filters will allow users to easily select for content from their Facebook friends, as well as from people and topics they're following, in specific categories like music and photos. Users can also now opt to see content from all of their Facebook friends with a new "All Friends" feed, while existing feeds like content from close friends and updates from games a user is playing will remain largely the same.
The presentation of content on the revamped News Feed has taken a decidedly visual turn. That's a direct response to the evolving nature of this key Facebook feature—the percentage of News Feed stories with photos grew from 25 per cent at the end of 2011 to roughly half as of January of this year, Zuckerberg said.
Julie Zhuo, Facebook's director of design, walked reporters through a series of visualising changes to News Feed content that will first be rolled out for Web users and hit smartphones and tablets over the next few weeks.
"We wanted to understand what it was that people wanted to share and design the best container to allow their stories to shine," Zhuo said.
Photos in News Feed stories are "more front and centre" in the redesign. Stories from friends will now be accompanied with a profile element from their Timelines, with a larger profile pic and details like common friends now accompanying their story as its viewed in a user's News Feed.
Facebook has also added a graphic element to any stories about a particular location—Zhuo gave the example of Yosemite National Park—which includes a map of that locale. Other tweaks include more prominence for third-party visual and text content from sites like Pinterest, the packaging of most shared articles from news sites, and larger embedded video in News Feed stories.
The addition of more granular content filters is intended to give users "more control over which of the many feeds flowing through Facebook you see on your News Feed," said News Feed lead tech Chris Struhar. Facebook users will be able to manage those sub-feeds through a menu and more specific types of content filtering may be added in the coming days, he said.
For now, mobile users will be happy to learn that certain desktop-only features will soon be available on mobile devices as well. For example, Facebook's chat feature will soon be available to all users, regardless of the device from which they're accessing the social network. Cox said a full 35 per cent of Facebook's users "don't have access to the chat sidebar because their view isn't big enough, but the new design gives them a tray to see who's online and the ability to chat with them."
Another desktop feature being ported over to the mobile version of Facebook is the popular bubble icon alerting users to new stories on their News Feed. Cox also said Facebook is working to create "truly global navigation" on the social network in order to allow users to "get to any page on Facebook from any other page on Facebook without having to go to the Facebook homepage."
Facebook's News Feed redesign will get a limited rollout on the Web starting today. The company said mobile device users can expect to "see the new design show up on phones and tablets over the next few weeks."