Possibly because of Google+, Facebook has been on an update spree over the past weeks. Since July 7th, less than a month ago, we’ve seen 5 noticeable updates to how the site works, leading me to wonder if Facebook is scrambling to retrieve it’s innovative feel.
It started with the changes to Facebook Chat that left us with a more minimalistic theme and a video chat button. Reviews were on the whole quite positive.
Then Facebook decided it would be a good idea to change up the chat list. Up until this point, it was a list of online friends. It took up only a portion of the screen necessary to show those friends and was easily hidden again with a single button click. Facebook made two significant changes to it. One, the list would now show friends that users talk to more often, whether those friends were online or not. Second, the chat list would now be a semi-permanent panel on the right side of the screen, taking the entire space and just sitting there in your face. I found it quite annoying, and I wasn’t alone. Multiple articles popped up bashing the new chat for both it’s poor new design, and it’s inability to be easily hidden. (Turned out that in settings, there was a hide bar button.) There’s even been a program written to manually remove offline friends from the list.
Possibly because of this negative feedback, Facebook (for the first time since I’ve been a Facebook user), listed and acted on that feedback. A new button was added at the bottom of this list that allowed for simple one-click hiding of the list. We still had an obnoxiously oversized list showing friends that weren’t online, but at least we could hide it. And so things stayed for about a week.
Yesterday, a new update was released that had nothing to do with chat. Now, Facebook has a relatively simple layout. There is the blue navigation bar running along the top. Below that there are three columns. Left is a navigation panel, middle is the content section (newsfeed, profile, etc), and left is upcoming events and ads. Up until now, if I scrolled down the page, the entire page would move together. As of last night, if I scroll, only the central content column moves. The top bar as well as left and right don’t move. It’s a bit disconcerting, but overall quite nice, because navigation never leaves or moves. Update: As of this morning, both left and right columns now scroll, only the top blue bar is fixed.
The last big change came at the same time as the scrolling update. Facebook has added a mini newsfeed to the chat panel. To some people at least; the rollout isn’t universal yet.
Whether or not the mini-newsfeed will remain there is unknown, but as long as Google+ is putting outside pressure on Facebook, the experiments will continue. Hopefully though, Facebook will listen to feedback and not get too attached to the unpopular ones.