Thursday, September 22, 2011

Facebook unveils new, personalized newspaper-like news feed layout

Dislike! Facebook took on a new identity Wednesday, adopting an interface users didn't like.

Facebook made yet another change Wednesday, deciding it needed to look more like a newspaper.

And the site's 750 million users didn't "like" it. Not one little bit.

In a general howl of Internet ire not heard since the revamps at Gawker and Netflix, Facebook's user base appeared to rise up as one Wednesday in fury over yet another massive new site change.

"NOOOO!" user Fiona Robinson posted in reply to the official announcement. "This is total garbage."

"This makes me want to erase the Internet and just start over," griped Eric Berg of Houston.

There were dozens of new posts every second on Twitter under the hashtag #NewFacebook. The majority were unprintable.

The social media giant announced a new categorization of contacts just last week to compete with new rival Google Plus. On Wednesday, Facebook retooled how users see their "news feed" - the list of posts, status updates and activity from friends that is at the heart of the Facebook experience.

The site replaced the familiar straightforward chronological list of posts and comments from your friends with highlighted "top stories" that Facebook thinks you will find important.

The idea, Facebook says, is that if you don't log into the site site for a while, you won't miss important posts.

"When you pick up a newspaper after not reading it for a week, the front page quickly clues you into the most interesting stories," explained Facebook engineering manager Mark Tonkelowitz.

"Now, News Feed will act more like your own personal newspaper. You won't have to worry about missing important stuff."

New posts since you last logged in are marked with blue corner triangles - like a dog-eared paper page.

And a new news ticker running along the right hand of the screen provides a steady stream of real-time updates.

Various polls on tech blogs found users disliking the changes by 3-1 and 4-1 margins.

Angry users questioned how Facebook was choosing what they would like to see - and why.

"I do not want Facebook telling me what stories are important," Amanda Stein of Ithaca wrote on the Facebook feedback page.

"Nearly every story so far that has been marked as a 'Top Story' hasn't been important at all. One of my friends liking another friend's FarmVille post is not important."

Hundreds of Facebook users changed their profile pictures to a sign saying "HATE the new Facebook news feed."

"I hate that you have turned what I see into a popularity contest. I hate that you now tell me that one friend likes ESPN every time I log on," Tina Dever posted.

Raymond Schlogel of Illinois said, "Facebook, you're not near as smart as you think you are. Everything you do to try to simplify things only complicates things more.

"It is this kind of mentality that killed MySpace."

There were some - a few - who didn't entirely hate it.

"I appreciate the fact that Facebook continues to refine how pictures are presented - bigger, easier to comment on," said James Nevius, author of "Inside the Apple: A Streetwise History of New York City."

"While the Twitter-like feed on the right is annoying, I can see people who'll use it frequently."

Tech blogger Robert Scoble said, "I love these new features. People who hate change suck."

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