Facebook told us months ago that it would be testing out new versions of the news feed in order to combine real-time status updates with the most relevant “Highlights” users may have missed. Now, a new test version of the news feed has appeared in the wild, as spotted by The Next Web. The redesign looks simpler, and not so different from Facebook Lite, the site it introduced in August, that it originally described as a faster-loading version designed for users with slow internet connections.
“We are currently testing different designs of the News Feed and the home page with select users,” a Facebook spokesperson tells us. “The tests help us understand if we can make it easier for users to balance both the most important and the most recent information from people they’re connected to.”
In this version, Highlights, a right-hand section of the site showing algorithmically-selected news from friends, has disappeared. Items like photos are apparently once again appearing within the main feed, as they did in previous designs. This is in line with what we reported in June.
Meanwhile, an old news feed feature where you could see both a raw stream of feeds as well as “top news” is back too. That feature also appeared in Facebook Lite in August — and FriendFeed’s interface in previous months. However, in this redesign, third-party applications crucially appear within the news feed; they don’t within Lite, which led some Facebook app developers to wonder what was going on. The screenshots don’t show how apps are presented in the bottom toolbar of the current design, or even if there’s a bottom toolbar. However, apps are appearing in the feed itself, and you can also see a top-left area called “requests,” showing what Facebook has until now called “notifications.” There’s one request in a screenshot for Slashkey’s virtual farming game Farm Town.
The “publisher” box for sharing links and other media also appears to have been de-emphasized. There’s now a box you can open to update your status in the right top-hand section of the main feed, but you apparently need to click to open it.
Here’s what Facebook told us about the changes it was planning, back in June:
We’ve publicly said [ed. here] that we were going to iterate on the homepage, just like we’re doing all the time across the site. In a large part the change is because we acknowledge that there needs to be a balance between the stream and highlights.It’s been a big point of feedback: They missed news feed in its former structure. We are looking at ways to help users understand not only what’s happening right now but what’s been happening since they last logged in.
The first three screenshots below, courtesy of The Next Web. The first is of “recent stories,” which is presumably equivalent to the current stream full of status updates, albeit with highlights.
The “top news” version, meanwhile, appears to be more like what the previous news feed was — an algorithmically-tuned view of the most interesting activities from your friends. Notice that once it is clicked on, it is called “Evening News,” which suggests that Facebook is looking at showing users various time-frames for what sort of “top news” to show people.
Notice the app in the news feed, at the bottom:
And, for sake of comparison, here’s what Facebook Lite looks like:
And, for good measure, here’s the current home page: