Facebook Becomes a Live-Updating Social Newspaper Thanks to News Feed Overhaul

Facebook officially unveiled the promised overhaul of its News Feed today, and the result--which users will see on the Web as early as, well, right now--is essentially a live-updating social newspaper, complete with different “sections”.

Citing three values that the Facebook team wanted to bring to this update--visually richer stories, choice of different feeds, and a unified experience across desktop and mobile devices--the new News Feed significantly increases the amount of screen real estate that is devoted to actual items. For example, photos appear larger than before, with the accompanying text overlaid on top instead of above and below, and the left side of the screen has been reduced to thumbnails instead of words and tiny icons.

Facebook before and after
L: Old and busted; R: New hotness

Probably the biggest change, however, is the new allotment of feeds. Presently, users have one newsfeed that is auto-curated by some unseen algorithm. Now, users will also be able to see everything their friends are posting and sharing in the All Friends feed; see only photos from friends and “liked” pages in the Photos feed; peek at the Music feed, which shows what your friends are listening to, recently-released albums of your favorite musicians, what your favorite artists are posting, and so on; and a Following feed so you can see all the posts from the pages and public figures you like all in one place.

Facebook music feed
An example of the Music Feed

It’s very much like a traditional newspaper with various sections you can turn to, although the “news” is socially dominated and doesn’t necessarily include any actual news per se--that is, unless you “like” news outlets or have friends that post a lot of articles.

Facebook unified interface
A unified experience across all devices

Facebook changes its look all the time, and usually it’s debatable whether or not the renovations are a good thing or not (even though everyone gets used to them eventually). In this case, you’d be hard-pressed to complain about what Facebook has done here. Facebook will look better, flow better, and the amount of clutter on the screen will be be significantly reduced. (Seriously, turning all that junk on the left side of the screen into simple little icons is brilliant. How did no one think of that before?)

The News Feed updates begin rolling out today to the Web version, and mobile versions will be coming soon. Facebook is taking the rollout slow and will be soliciting and implementing feedback before the updates reach the population at large.