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.
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.
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.
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
"The newsfeed was kind of outdated.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.
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 assmartphones
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.
Facebook vs Google
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.
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.
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 $38, closed up 4 percent at $28.57 on
Thursday on the Nasdaq.
Facebook and Google, which both got their
start on desktop computers, are now managing a transition of their
products onto smartphones and tablets, which typically yield less
revenue than on PCs.
The two Internet mainstays are also waging a
war for revenue in mobile advertising - a market that is still small
compared with the traditional desktop but that is growing exponentially.
terms of overall mobile advertising, Google commanded a 53.5 percent
share in 2012, aided by its dominance in search-based ads. Facebook had
just 8.4 percent, a distant runner-up, according to estimates from
research house eMarketer.
But in terms of mobile display ad sales,
Facebook narrowly edges out its rival with 18.4 percent of the market
versus Google's 17 percent, the research outfit estimated.
Pressure on the system
The makeover is partly prompted by complaints about increasing clutter on Facebook's network.
Facebook has grown to more than 1 billion users, the amount of content
that users and companies post to the website has surged. Facebook users
only see a small portion of that content, culled by Facebook's
In recent months, some companies and users,
including entrepreneur Mark Cuban, have grumbled that their content was
not getting enough exposure in the newsfeed, because Facebook gives
paid ads priority in the newsfeed.
Facebook's vice president of
product, Chris Cox, acknowledged that there was "more pressure on the
system" to feature the various content, as Facebook has grown in size.
additional newsfeeds provide more opportunities for content to appear
in front of users. A photos-only feed displays pictures shared by a
user's connections on Facebook as well as on Facebook-ownedInstagram and
other photo apps that are integrated with the social network.
revamped version of an existing but little-used Music feed aggregates
the songs that a user's friends are listening to, and includes posts
from bands and performers in which a user has expressed an interest.
also introduced a "Friends Only" feed that displays every message
shared by a user's friends in chronological order rather than chosen by
an algorithm as well as a "Following" feed that gathers posts from news
publishers, celebrities, sports teams and other groups or businesses
that a user subscribes to.
"The basic idea is sometimes you want
five minutes and you want to see the top stuff, sometimes you want to
spend an hour and go through a lot of different stuff," Cox said in an
interview after the event.
The additional feeds could also provide
Facebook with more space to offer ads on its newsfeed, though a
spokeswoman said the additional news feeds would not initially feature
© Thomson Reuters 2013