If you’ve stopped into Facebook within the past week or turned on the news, you’ve probably seen and heard about big changes to the service format and features. You’ve probably seen opinions that range from extreme displeasure to not knowing what to think. It seems strange that a free internet service causes such huge stirs and even makes the news doesn’t it? Actually, I think this shows the truth of how important and powerful the service really is to connecting people.
Now, some may think this article may also turn into the now infamous “other social service killer” discussion. Sorry to spoil it for you . . . it isn’t about that. I actually use Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook all about the same amount of time. I just use them for different purposes with some overlap between them. So I’m sure they will all continue to stay around.
So, back to the changes with Facebook. This morning I signed in and my Aunt had posted how she was upset with all the changes. I can appreciate her viewpoint. She actually just started using it not all that long ago and was just starting to get comfortable with the service. So for newcomers, any change to format and functionality is huge. For those of us who have been using the service for several years know change is pretty common and some of us have seen the need for a while especially as your base of connections grows larger and larger. So what do I like about the changes?
- Social sharing is becoming more “seamless”. Sharing what we are doing, thinking, watching, listening to, so forth and so on is one of the foundations of being social. It’s really nothing new. Just saw a good movie or heard a great song? You want to tell others. Had a great experience? You want to tell others. Today we can “tell others” even as these things are happening rather than after the fact. Facebook is taking the “Like” button to the next level and allowing developers to call it whatever they like (no pun intended) across the web. Say you read a great book and want to recommend it to others, instead of a simple “like” or “recommend” maybe the website changes it to “You Gotta Read This!” or whatever. Likewise, Facebook places ‘Check in” has gotten better and better. Once “checked in” it becomes a ‘hub’ for those visiting, or there now, to share their experience. Most simply see this as a promotional thing for businesses and a simple response to FourSquare, but in all honesty it is far more than that.
- Upcoming Profile Timeline. This feature takes your profile and reformats it to become the story of you. If you’ve ever wondered what happened to all that stuff you posted on Facebook a few years ago . . . it’s still there. It also takes all of your dates you assigned to important life events and drops them in to a timeline (hence the name). Obviously there are privacy concerns with this one because now your profile becomes a bit more personal rather than simple generics. Once this goes live in the coming weeks if you think there may be something objectionable you shared years back . . . you might want to go through and review it. With recent controls over who sees what, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about more recent activity. But better safe than sorry, and review it. I really like the whole idea of telling one’s story through the profile and having more control over it’s look (i.e. Cover Image . . . see an example of mine at the top). My ONLY REAL concern is what this will do for the service itself. In my opinion, MySpace’s biggest contributing factor to it’s demise was in focus on the individual profile. It was all about the profile page with MySpace and Facebook hasn’t been. What will happen is yet to be seen, and it will be interesting to observe.
- More control over the social stream. For anyone who has used Facebook for some time and grown their “Likes” and added friends, that stream of posts gets really difficult to work through and that the real heart of everything for the user. Some of these new controls are:
- “Subscribe” rather than add as a “friend”. This way you can better manage your real connections without adding them to your “friend list” and which posts from them you want to see. Be pretty wild if you could do that in real life with people too, huh?
- The “Top Story”. Now you can determine what is really a “top story” for you with that nifty new little left-hand blue corner tab. So maybe there is a discussion going on and you don’t want to lose it . . . now just assign it as a “top story”.
- The second right-hand stream of posts. This formatting is really nice and the pop-outs when you hover over a post and interact with it is very nice.
- The ability to post to multiple people at once for events. Say you have five people in your friend list all with the same birthday. You know you feel compelled to wish each a “Happy Birthday”, but boy is it cumbersome to go to each person’s page and write that. Now you just click on one name to the right and they all come up allowing you to send each a tailored “Happy Whatever” message.