Social Networking

Facebook Repaints Wall in New Design

Facebook’s new look is all about the Wall, the blank space on a profile page that the social network’s users can fill in with stories, photos, links and the ever-popular Status Updates. In turn, Facebook executives hope a less-cluttered Web site will eventually fill in their bank accounts with more advertising revenue.

The second-ranked social network (after MySpace) is slowly introducing its users to its redesign, keeping in mind the public relations disaster that was Beacon, Facebook’s controversial attempt to link customer data to advertisers. “Nothing with your privacy is changing with this,” writes Mark Slee, a Facebook product manager, on the company blog. “In fact, the new story formats should offer even greater control over what and how information is shared. We still respect all the same, trusted privacy controls as before.”

Linking Walls to Feeds, and Feeds to Friends

Besides putting the Wall in a more prominent position on a profile page, the new-look Facebook also makes it easier for users to publish content and integrate third-party applications, all in “newsfeed” form. Those applications can also be previewed before they are added to a profile page. Tabs are now used to separate content. The result is a cleaner page that plays up shorter content (a la microblog sensation Twitter) and quicker access to Facebook’s strength: telling you what your friends are up to.

“You don’t log in to see what’s going on about yourself. The focus is on the friends,” Caroline Dangson, research analyst for IDG’s digital marketplace program, told TechNewsWorld. “Before, it’s been harder to get to some of this information (on Facebook). … This gets more to the point.”

The chance to try out an application before adding it to your page may highlight Facebook’s increased sensitivity about privacy. Dangson points to IDC research showing 59 percent of those surveyed didn’t want Web sites collecting information about them under any circumstances.

“Talking about applications on Facebook … you have to be willing to give up information about yourself in the process of adding an app, and users will quickly read over the fine print and just do it,” Dangson said. Giving the user more time to consider and try out the application allows them more control, she added.

New Design = New Advertising Revenue?

How will Facebook’s new look help it gain on MySpace, which Dangson said is viewed as being more of a venue for creative expression? For Mukul Krishna, global director for Frost & Sulivan’s digital media practice, it’s not just about the Wall; it’s about eyeballs on Walls.

“It’s how you present everything, which makes people want to log on to Facebook regularly. When you are able to attract more people and more qualified advertising leads, if you can generate more content from them, you will be able to provide more targeted advertising,” he said.

The changes may also be an attempt to carve out a different digital audience than the social network leader. “MySpace is a much younger demographic,” Krishna said. “Facebook is usually more serious people in terms of a slightly older demographic, late 20s and into their 30s. It’s obviously a very good target for advertisers. There’s a good chance they’ll be more independent than a teen MySpace user, with more earning power.”

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