Facebook's redesign shows it wants to be Flipboard
8th Mar 2013 | 12:20
It's not a social utility any more. It's a newspaper!
I can tell what website my wife is using by listening. If all I can here is the tapping of her fingers, she's in webmail. If I can hear the scrolling of a mouse wheel, she's on the message boards. And if she's using language that would make a sailor blush, she's on Facebook.
I can't imagine what words she'll use when she gets the redesigned Facebook News Feed.
It doesn't look like a big deal - it takes the existing layout and makes it prettier - but it actually represents quite a big change.
Facebook is making itself more annoying and less useful.
Gotta monetise those millions
If you're using the Facebook mobile apps you'll have some idea of what to expect: enormous adverts that take over the entire screen and an increasingly erratic selection from your friends' updates. You'll also get exciting new tabs to see only specific kinds of content, such as music, and much more emphasis on photography.
That's great news for the millions of Facebook users who've been demanding more late-night drunken music video nostalgia-fests from people with terrible taste in music and more pictures of people's dinners, pets and children.
The big change is a philosophical one, though. Facebook doesn't want to be a noticeboard, a place where everybody posts everything and you then decide what's relevant and hide everybody who's annoying. It wants to be Flipboard.
As Dustin Curtis, creator of Svbtle.com, put it on Twitter: "Facebook's new layout marks a massive change in its design philosophy. It has gone from being a 'social utility' to a 'social magazine'."
It's not a place to communicate any more. It's a place to discover content. In order to monetise its millions, Facebook is changing its focus from "what are you doing?" to "what content are you consuming?"
Don't take my word for it. Here's Zuck: "This gives people more power to dig deeper into the topics they care about." The Associated Press reports that "Zuckerberg hopes to turn the News Feed into something more like a newspaper tailored to the particular interests of each of the social network's more than 1 billion worldwide users."
It's an interesting move, and I've no idea how successful it'll be - the only photos I'd like added to my News Feed would be of Zuckerberg being chased through jaggy bushes by angry bears, so I'm probably not the target audience for any of this - but clearly, Facebook is going to be that bit more annoying and less useful for those of us who already have Flipboard and Zite and RSS feeds and Google to dig deeper into the topics we care about.
I can tell you one thing, though. When my wife gets it, she's going to go ballistic.