Like Its Users, The New Facebook Is All Grown Up

Yesterday, we told you that Facebook would be launching its new design today and briefly highlighted the coming changes. Today we’ve received the official word from the Facebook team that the new profile is indeed live. According to the company, access to the new design will be limited at first as it gradually becomes available to all of their more than 80 million users over the coming days. What’s most interesting about the new Facebook design, though, is not just the change in the aesthesis. Instead, the new look reflects the changing needs of their core user base.

The Hard Task of Staying Relevant

Facebook, which launched in February of 2004, began as a social network just for college students. The closed nature of the network became one of its biggest selling points. Here, students could plan their social schedules, create study groups, and yes, even post those embarrassing photos from last night’s kegger without worrying that mom or dad might see.

But now, four years later, those same students are graduating and entering the job market. Cleaning up a Facebook profile – that is, removing those “sort of” friends and old acquaintances as well as ditching a slew of time-wasting applications is almost like a coming-of-age ritual now. As the college kids move into the real world, the social network needs to reflect their changing needs in order to stay relevant while still appealing to the next generation of users, too.

That’s a fine line to walk, but Facebook is making a go of it. Although the network provides numerous privacy controls, that isn’t really enough to make the network “safe for work.” For the Gen Y workforce, getting the point across that their set of social media tools can be the new way to get things done, it helps when profiles aren’t filled with pointless, time-wasting apps that don’t just fill your screen but also spam you and your friends with their notifications.

Application Lockdown

The new profile page cleans up the applications by moving them into the “Boxes” tab, but what’s more important is what’s going on behind the scenes – application security. On the new Facebook, apps are now “try before you buy.” That is, you can interact with the application before adding it, granting it access to your information, and deciding where to put it on your Facebook profile.

Also, app makers will no longer be rewarded for forcing their users to promote their apps and apps that don’t meet certain privacy requirements will be banned. Recently misbehaving apps Slide’s Top Friends and Rock You’s Super Wall were banned earlier this month, for example. (Top Friends has since fixed their privacy violations and returned). No longer will these sorts of attention-grabbing apps rule Facebook. Instead, thanks to the new application bookmarking feature which gives you quick access to your most frequently used bookmarks, the most popular apps will be the one that you actually find useful.

New Application Bookmarks, image courtesy of Inside Facebook

You’re In Control

As far as user privacy controls, the new design does not change any of the privacy settings previously set, but you will now have more control over what information appears in your feed. You can add and delete items from your feed which now surfaces more “pertinent” information about you. You also have complete control over stories on your profile. According to the Facebook blog post, “you can adjust the size and prominence of stories and can choose between having one-line stories, short or full stories. One-line stories are one sentence long, while short stories include thumbnail photos or content, and full stories display large, noticeable images.”

Conclusion

As the Facebook generation grows up, they should find added value in the new redesign which highlights more relevant and current information while putting the most useful aspects of Facebook at their fingertips. And as Facebook becomes less of a place for them to hang out and more of a tool for networking in the business sense of the word, the cleaner design and additional controls make sense. However, the one remaining question is whether or not this new design will work for the younger Facebook users who are still “having fun” on the site or whether they will agree that this was a necessary step to prevent the MySpace-ification of Facebook.

For more details on the changes, All Facebook and Inside Facebook have first looks. You may be able to access the new Facebook by visiting http://www.new.facebook.com, but many people (such as myself) are reporting that this is now doing a redirect back to the www.facebook.com.

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