Another day, another much-maligned Facebook interface update. But before you run off to post an obligatory "OMG WTF Facebook!" comment, why don't we take a look at what they've done, and the underlying reasons why they've done it? Because, believe it or not, the point of these changes is not to frustrate you or give you yet another reason to contemplate leaving Facebook.
Firstly, there's a good case to be made that these changes are in response to Google+'s stradling the personal social networking of Facebook and the interest oriented, one-way following of Twitter. Facebook, it seems, wants to move users outside of their social circle by encouraging them to 'subscribe' to notable people like Pete Cashmore of Mashable or Bradley Horowitz of Google in my case. These recommendations appear below the new, eye-catching ticker that updates in real time. Is it a coincidence that Facebook started recommending these 'subscriptions' almost concurrently with its shiny new (sort of) Lists feature? Does this remind you of anything we've seen before?
Speaking of the ticker, by simultaneously providing you with updates of all content in real-time and a more curated and prioritized look at what's going on across your social graph and among the pages you follow in the main feed, Facebook is further blending social content with broadcast business and informational content. This benefits Facebook by eliminating the need to switch your feed between the Top Stories and All Stories by providing both feeds to the end user at the same time. Less channel surfing between feeds means that a higher likelihood that you'll see and interact with posts from content pages and ads, which makes Facebook a more attractive platform for businesses.
The placement of the ticker is no coincidence. Previously, random event updates and picture thumbnails never provided a compelling or particularly eye-catching reason to pay attention to the right column, but with the ticker showing users what's happening right now, Facebook is drawing attention there, right above sponsored stories and ads, and the suggested subsciption box. It's a better use of the space, and will no doubt get more users to see sponsored content, another win for Facebook. Do you think they'll start feeding sponsored content into the ticker?
Overall, it seems that these most recent updates to the Facebook interface was implemented with an eye on Google+'s initial advantages, especially for business use. But as Mr. Cashmore himself posted on Google+ today, this feature copying will be par for the course as each network vies for social media supremacy.
What do you think of the new Facebook interface, features, and Google+'s counterpunch? Do these updates change Facebook's role your social media strategy?