Facebook's new features under scrutiny
LONDON - Rory Sutherland, executive creative director and vice-chairman at Ogilvy, reviews the new-look Facebook site.
Facebook has undergone a redesign in an effort to stand out in the increasingly competitive social networking space.
The revamped site, available at www.new.facebook.com, centers on a simpler design, providing users with the opportunity to preview and test a number of new features.
Access to the new design will initially be limited, but will gradually become available to all of Facebook's 80 million worldwide users.
It has become quite fashionable in recent months to disparage Facebook, claiming that the future of social networking lies elsewhere, which may indeed be true. However, having said that, I am not sure Facebook is a social networking site in the purest sense of the phrase. The true social networking sites will probably more and more revolve around shared interests, obsessions or needs. In this sense, Facebook, since it is not actually about anything, should not be seen as a template for every community you seek to create.
The right question to ask is simply this: has Facebook allowed people to interact in ways they previously couldn't? Here the answer is more positive. For, in much the same way that text messaging complements voice calling, Facebook complements email. What it uniquely allows you to do is to share stuff among your friends in an indiscriminate yet unassertive manner. Unlike an email, which is targeted and says "you must read me", Facebook is untargeted - you mostly share your crap with large groups of friends. However, to many people, particularly those whose parents or employers were starting to use the site, this indiscriminate targeting needed reining back a little.
The new design seems to acknowledge what I am saying in some ways, as it declutters the interface to allow more prominence for the personal feeds, while also greatly improving the degree of selectivity with which one shares photographs and other personal information. The site also has answered one other screaming problem - that invitations for applications were getting completely out of hand. "Louise has just given you a slap in the face with a wet fish. Would you like to beat Louise off with a shitty stick?" No, not particularly. Sensibly, you can now preview apps before sharing data with them. Tabs also allow you to move more niftily between different uses of the site.
One function still seems awful. Truly dreadful. And that is the email application. This is so bad as to be embarrassing. But that may be something for the next refresh.
But, with this new version, if you still find yourself slagging off Facebook, maybe you just need some more interesting friends.
This article was first published on revolutionmagazine.com
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