Facebook Gets Simpler, More Complicated

Here’s the first thing you may notice about the new Facebook — the word “Facebook” doesn’t appear anywhere on it. Just one blue-on-white, lowercase “f.”

It’s indicative of a couple of things — first of all, Facebook is so famous it doesn’t need to use its full name any more. Secondly, the company has a new religion: make the design as clean as possible. Remove all unnecessary pixels (and yes, the company talks about it in pixel-level terms). Get Facebook out of the way of your Facebook experience.

“We wanted to remove all the chrome from Facebook,” software engineer Chris Struhar told Mashable after the event. And he wasn’t talking about the Google browser. (Indeed, folks at Facebook were strenuously avoiding any usage of the G-word Thursday, possibly because of the design’s similarity to Google+.)

Struhar was using a web nerd term to describe the chrome fins on the Facebook car: the details, the frames, anything that wasn’t Facebook stories and pure, gorgeous white space.

Of course, if you were paying attention to the details of the News Feed event, you’ll notice the paradox here: at the same time Facebook got simpler, it also got more complicated.

Instead of two options for how to sort your News Feed — “Top Stories” and “Most Recent” — Facebook now offers a dizzying seven options.

You get regular old News Feed (the equivalent of Top Stories, sorted by the Facebook algorithm), “All Friends” (headed up by a photo with a selection of friends in it), “Following” for the Pages and public figures you follow; “Photos,” “Groups,” “Games,” “Music” and your old friend “Most Recent.”

In fact, you get even more options than that. Click on “see all” and you’ll be able to view your News Feed by your location, or only people you follow at your work place, or only people in your high school, and so on.

All in all, I counted 20 ways to view my News Feed. Your mileage may vary.

How much of this will you use? It’s a fair question. In talking to Facebook employees who’ve been playing around with the new design internally for months, I’ve heard much the same thing: their browsing habits didn’t change.

If they preferred the passive browsing of the “Top Stories” algorithm before, they’re not really drilling down into the multiplicity of News Feed options. If they were the kinds of Facebook users who set up dozens of Lists before, then those kinds of options are closer to their fingertips.

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