Facebook begins redesign rollout

Facebook has begun delivering to its members its site redesign, which is aimed at reducing the clutter of members' profile pages and protecting the social network's trademark clean and organized layout.

A related goal of the redesign is to make the site's activity feed features more prominent and easier to use. The features allow friends to broadcast and receive action notifications, such as updates on what they are doing and alerts about the posting of photos or comments.

In the works since early this year, the redesign was due last month. However, Facebook is taking the time it feels it needs to get this right and make sure that it addresses, as much as possible, the main concerns raised by members and external application developers.

Specifically, some developers have said they are worried that the redesign takes away visibility from applications, possibly making it harder for their applications to gain traction among members.

Meanwhile, now that Facebook has about 80 million members worldwide, the main concern regarding end-users is a backlash triggered by a significant revamping of the interface they are accustomed to.

Facebook's latest major product introduction was in November, when it launched its Social Ads, whose Beacon component was resoundingly criticized. Many members and privacy advocates considered Beacon too intrusive and stealthy in reporting their activities outside of Facebook.

At the time, it became clear that a big part of the Beacon fiasco could have been prevented if Facebook had done a better job of communicating with its members about how the program worked and by soliciting more feedback prior to its launch.

With this redesign, Facebook has taken things more slowly, and from the beginning it has been regularly informing members and developers about its plans via blog postings, screenshots and presentations. About 100,000 members have offered feedback about the redesign so far, according to Facebook.

To further soften the impact of the changes, members will be able to toggle between the old and new layouts so that they can try out the new features and become acquainted with the changes. The redesign will be turned on gradually over the coming days, so not everyone will see it right away.

In addition to compartmentalizing profile information and components into a new tabbed interface, Facebook is highlighting its Wall feature and adding more capabilities to it to make it a central hub for communications among friends.

Thus, the Wall, with its new Publisher component, will consolidate in a single place a wide variety of actions that until now members have had to make in discrete interfaces. By doing this, Facebook hopes to align itself with the microblogging trend popularized by Twitter and FriendFeed, among others.

"What we're seeing is that users across all sorts of sites are spending less time making big single pieces of content. Instead, they are making a lot of little pieces of content, like status updates, writing messages on Twitter, uploading single videos to YouTube. This is the paradigm we want to capture with the publisher, where it's really easy to frequently communicate with these little pieces of information," Mark Slee, the Facebook product manager in charge of the redesign, told IDG News Service in May.

In addition to the Wall tab, the Profile page also has Info, which contains basic personal data about life, work and interests; Photos; and Boxes, which contains a user's applications, although users can create tabs for specific applications.

When members are granted access to the new design, they will find it in a staging Web site for now. Eventually in the coming weeks the new design will be the default at Facebook's home page.

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