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Facebook unveils redesigned News Feed

The new feed cuts clutter and provides a visually richer experience to users

Facebook is giving its billion users a completely new way to look at its site.

The company on Thursday previewed a new version of its News Feed that cuts page clutter, highlights photographs and content from publishers, and allows users to browse their feed by subject.

"We're trying to give everyone in the world the best personal newspaper they can find," said Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, during a news conference at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

The biggest visual change to the News Feed is the wider, larger images that will take center stage on the page. That change, along with new visual elements for other updates and check-ins, will give users' News Feed pages a much slicker look.

The current left-hand panel, which includes links to groups, pages, favorites and apps, will be eliminated, and the current panel that shows who is online and is used for messaging and tracking the posts of friends will be moved from the right side of the News Feed page to the left and reduced to the icons of friends.

Users will be able to select a thematic News Feed through a button on the top right.

"Just like a newspaper, when you want to see every sports story and you jump to the sports section, you can select these," said Chris Struhar, tech lead for the News Feed at Facebook.

Choices will include updates from all friends, music-related updates, photos, games, close friends, and pages and public figures that users are following.

Facebook's new look will be the same when the site is accessed on a PC, a tablet or a mobile device -- a product of the company's "mobile first" push that began in the middle of 2012. The company previously designed for the Web and then adapted for mobile, but the new strategy has designers thinking about the mobile platform from the start.

The News Feed will begin appearing for some users from Thursday through the Web interface.

"We're going to be very careful about how we roll it out," said Chris Cox, a Facebook employee speaking at the event.

It will be available to additional users each day and in the coming weeks on the tablet and mobile platforms.

The News Feed sits at the very heart of Facebook's site and defines the way users interact with the social network. Because of that, there's a lot riding on any tweak or change.

If Facebook gets it right, users will spend a longer time browsing the site, which could lead to more ad sales and higher revenue for the company. But if Facebook gets it wrong -- as it has done with several site changes in the past -- the result could be a cacophony of complaints.

The Facebook redesign comes a day after Google began making changes to its rival Google+ social network. The Google site added larger cover photos, made it easier to edit personal information and brought local and area-specific information under a single tab.

Google claims the site has 500 million users, which gives it half the user base of Facebook, but the site hasn't been able to generate the same buzz or high profile as Facebook.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com


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