Facebook rolls out overhaul to home pages; users aren't all thrilled
"This sucks. That is all," wrote one succinct user
Changes put "Top Stories" over recent posts in News Feeds, add quick-scrolling "Ticker"
Facebook says changes help people find the top news, not just the latest updates
Here we go again.
Facebook has made big changes to users’ pages, and people are responding in droves with their metaphorical “dislike” buttons.
News Feeds were popping with not-so-gentle complaints Wednesday as many of the social-networking behemoth’s 750 million users began seeing the overhaul.
“This is absolutely the worst of the many wrong-headed ‘improvements’ you have made, and that’s quite a feat,” a user named Franklin Habit wrote on the site’s official Facebook page. “I think Facebook’s usefulness to me has now been outstripped by its lack of ease in use.”
Others were more succinct.
“This sucks,” wrote user Brandon Howell. “That is all.”
To be fair, griping about Facebook changes is a time-honored hallmark of the site. Change is hard for some people, and users grumble every time Facebook revamps their pages.
And it’s perhaps a touch on the ironic side that many of the current complaints are coming from folks who, in turn, complained in December when the current format was rolled out. Or the time before. And the time before that.
Which isn’t to say that the changes aren’t pretty dramatic.
Instead of defaulting to your friends’ most recent posts, the News Feed (which people hated when it was introduced) is now topped in many cases by what Facebook calls “Top Stories” for you. It uses an algorithm that combines such factors as which friends you interact with most and which friends’ posts have the most comments and “likes” on them.
That algorithm, of course, was in its infancy on Wednesday, leading many users to say the top stories that Facebook suggested were random, at best.
“The ‘top stories’ needs to be gotten rid of,” wrote user Kristy Montaney. “They’re out of context and I want to check my News Feed from most recent to oldest, none of this ‘top stories’ stuff.”
In a post on The Facebook Blog, developer Mark Tonkelowitz said the idea is to help people who may not log in to the site all the time find the best content, not just the newest.
“Now, News Feed will act more like your own personal newspaper,” he wrote. “You won’t have to worry about missing important stuff. All your news will be in a single stream with the most interesting stories featured at the top.”
If you check Facebook more frequently, he said, you’ll see newer stories at the top of your feed.
The other most glaring change Wednesday was a new, scrolling rail on the right side of the home page. Facebook calls it the Ticker. We’re partial to “The ADD Bar,” because the feature seems pitched to our attention-deficit lifestyles with its rapidly streaming nuggets of friends’ activity.
If a friend “likes” an update, comments on a post or subscribes to a page, it now pops up in the – OK, we’ll say it – somewhat Twitter-like timeline.
Haters were calling it distracting. But Tonkelowitz believes the Ticker plugs the gap in the time lag the News Feed sometimes experiences, letting users have more real-time interactions.
One apparent quirk of the Ticker is that when a friend interacts with a nonfriend (say, likes the status update of someone you’re not friends with), clicking on that activity will show the original post.
Tonkelowitz’s blog post said the Ticker “shows you the same stuff you were already seeing on Facebook.”
Facebook spokesman Jonathan Thaw clarified this in an e-mail to CNN. “If you can’t see a post because of its privacy settings, it won’t show up to you anywhere on Facebook, including in your News Feed or in [the] ticker.” he said. “Commenting or liking a post doesn’t change its privacy settings.”
In the history of Facebook changes, the pattern has typically been that users complain loudly at first and threaten to leave the site but then eventually learn to live with, if not like, the new approach.
This time may be somewhat more interesting in that it’s the first major Facebook overhaul since Google rolled out its rival social networking site, Google+.
Many of the anti-change posts Wednesday were coupled with threats to defect to Google+ if things aren’t changed back.
And interestingly – and, we have to assume, coincidentally – the Facebook overhaul was announced on the same day that Google+, previously an invite-only affair, was opened to the public.