Facebook began rolling out their much-publicized new user home page redesign today. This refresh brings a revamped page with an improved share box (called the Publisher), new filtering controls, a real-time stream, and a highlights area that shows important items from the stream. We first reported on these changes last week.
We got a chance to spend a few minutes with Facebook product manager Peter Deng covering the update plus a short question and answer session. He said there were two motivations driving these changes: First, moving to real-time updates (stopping short of a live flood view) means more spontaneous conversations in the feed. Second, improved filtering will mean Facebook users will have the power to only see the stuff they want to see.
In our opinion, what Facebook calls filters could perhaps be described more as different views on your overall activity stream. You select the type of things you want to see, like photos or web links, and your stream is updated to reflect that view. In addition, you can create filter groups including subsets of the people you want to see updates from, for example members of your family. In any case, we think it's a step in the right direction, especially if you have a lot of Facebook friends and activity and have trouble finding the content you are interested in.
When we moved on to the Publisher (the area of the page that allows you to add stuff to the new Facebook home page), Peter pointed out that they are definitely committed to enabling more sharing of content, both within the Facebook system and with external networks and applications via the Facebook Connect interface. We were glad to get confirmation that they are indeed working toward a more open model.
Speaking of the Publisher, it's now more modal, allowing you to choose what type of item you would like to share. We have seen this sort of modal format on social networks like Friendfeed and Tumblr and it is a clear improvement - it provides a focal point to each update as well as allowing the new filtering system to work more effectively.
Finally, the highlights section of the revamped home page will show more persistent content such as conversations, notes and photos, popular links, and new Facebook content your friends discover such as public profiles.
Of course, just like previous Facebook deployments, this isn't a mass cut-over. Accounts are being moved over to the new design gradually, so we'll have to be patient until it arrives to everyone.