Facebook puts new focus on photos
ReutersMENLO PARK, California -- Facebook Inc. introduced the biggest change in years to its popular newsfeed on Thursday, with a new look and focus on photos that is expected to make the social network more ad-friendly and may entice users to spend more time on the website.
March 9, 2013, 12:09 am TWN
The changes to the newsfeed, whose look and feel had remained largely unchanged since Facebook's inception, include a division into several sections, with separate areas for photographs and music.
The newsfeed is the ever-changing stream of photos, videos and comments uploaded from friends, and is the first page most users see upon logging in.
Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the makeover was part of an effort to position the social network as a “personalized newspaper,” complete with different sections for users to explore.
It comes with a revamped interface that gives more prominence to visual media, such as photos and videos.
The makeover comes roughly a month after Facebook introduced a new social search feature it dubbed “graph search” that makes it easier for the social network's more than 1 billion users to discover more content on the social network.
The much-needed changes unveiled on Thursday, which standardize the network's look across different types of desktop and mobile devices, bring Facebook up-to-date as Google+, the much younger social network started by Google Inc, begins to incorporate more video and images.
“This is just going to provide more opportunity for people to click around and stick around,” said Brian Blau, an analyst with industry research firm Gartner, about the revamped newsfeed.
“The newsfeed was kind of outdated. This sort of brings it up to maybe what's comparable to ... their competition, and partner sites that are focusing on media and richness.”
Facebook's newsfeed is one of three “pillars” of the service, along with search and user profiles.
The updated newsfeed provides more space for the photos and videos that users share on the network, and provides a more consistent look and feel between the version for PCs and for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. The changes will begin rolling out in limited fashion from Thursday, Facebook said.
Facebook executives say the updates will help keep organized the increasing jumble of content available on the social network as its user base grows.
The last major update to the feature occurred in September 2011. Since then, the company has incorporated ads directly into the feed and has shifted its focus to creating “mobile-first experiences,” because more people now access the social network from smartphones than from desktop computers.
Marketers will be able to fashion more compelling ads thanks to the increased real estate for photos, said Hussein Fazal, the chief executive of AdParlor, a firm that helps companies advertise on Facebook. “Larger images will result in higher click through-rates, a higher level of engagement and better performance,” Fazal wrote in an email.
Still, analysts say the company needs to tread carefully to avoid inundating users' various feeds with advertising, as Facebook tries to sustain a rapid pace of growth that helped it debut on public markets at the highest-ever valuation for a technology company.
The world's largest social network is moving to regain Wall Street's confidence after its botched IPO last year, addressing concerns about its long-term prospects — many of which center on an industry-wide shift toward the use of mobile devices.
Facebook shares, which are still more than a quarter off their IPO price of US$38, closed up 4 percent at US$28.57 on Thursday on the Nasdaq.