In the past couple of days Facebook has been rolling out to its users a new homepage. This is the second time that Facebook changes dramatically its look. While there was great upheaval against the first change in the home page compared to the original Facebook (where fun applications, superpoking and friend hugging held center stage), I think it can be safely argued that the change was a great improvement in terms of making Facebook a much more functional website where to share information (in the form of links, photos and news feeds) with other people in your network.
This second change in the look of Facebook, however (which now makes your homepage very much look like Twitter, a site which has been growing exponentially in popularity) has a new rationale behind it. It is not anymore about making the sharing of information with your friends easier, it is about providing real time access to information about your friends. Indeed, status updates now appear to be the same as any other wall post made by your friends, while finding out about other friends activities (posting of photos, groups joint, people friended) is now messy and more difficult.
While there may be benefits to this (= being constantly up to date with what your friends are doing), I am afraid that with this new homepage, the hedonitic/narcissistic/self-broadcasting aspect of social networking will be highlighted – while the sharing of substantial information in the form of links, joining groups or causes will become secondary, thus thwarting the potential of Facebook as a more ‘engaging’ tool not only for discussion and sharing but also for connecting and reconnecting with old and new friends (which is one of the primary reasons why people go on sites like Facebook in the first place). Let’s see how the users will react and if my worries are unfounded.
UPDATE: you can vote on the new facebook layout here: http://apps.facebook.com/layoutvote/ and you can read two very good opinion pieces on the Facebook facelift here and here.
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