Facebook updates are generally met with equal parts excitement and skepticism.
While the social networking website’s new features are often forward thinking and unique, they’ve also swapped familiar, functional design for awkward layouts and had issues with privacy concerns settings.
This year, the company has a better record with new additions. In January, Facebook added Graph Search, which allow users to perform power searches against the information from users in their network.
On Thursday, the company introduced an updated news feed, designed to keep users coming back to the site. Here’s what to look for:
“New” news feed
Since it’s first appearance in 2006, the core idea of the newsfeed has stayed somewhat consistent: show a feed of news items and Facebook interaction from friends in your network.
Earlier updates to the news feed to allow users to more closely control what appeared in the feeds of other users. In 2011, Facebook altered the news feed so it showed Top Stories and Most Recent news, but the content was chosen by an algorithm and wasn’t comprehensive.
Now, Facebook’s decided to enhance the news feed by improving the presentation of multimedia that appears there and adding new filters to give users more control over what they want their news feed to show.
All content that appears in the news feed has been redesigned, improving visual presence and bringing a unified look to all platforms. Photos and videos are displayed more prominently, while information shared from user pages or profiles is more apparent and easier to pick out.
The improved news feed also brings an element of choice. Instead of choosing between the existing, disappointing Top Stories and Most Recent options, users can now choose between a chronological list of all updates from friends (what the news feed actually should be, in my opinion), music updates or streams, updates with photos and new content from pages or people the user has “Liked” or is following.
Facebook envisions the news feed acting as something of a personal newspaper, with updates and new content appearing constantly. By adding the power of choice, users can customize their news feed experience to see the information they desire at any time.
The updated news feed isn’t available to everyone yet, but users interested in trying it out can sign up for access via a button at Facebook’s “new” news feed hub: http://www.facebook.com/about/newsfeed.
This landing page also contains videos and graphics explaining the updates and previewing the new look.
Facebook’s other new feature from this year, Graph Search, is also still in beta. To sign up for that experience, or to learn more, see its hub at http://www.facebook.com/about/graphsearch.