Facebook 2011: A Year in Review

Facebook’s “Move fast and break things” mantra was put into action again this year as the company overhauled a number of its products, introduced many new features and eliminated old functionality. Here is a month-by-month review of changes that most affected users, marketers and developers on the platform in 2011.

January

Redesigned Profiles
Facebook started the year with a new look for profile pages. With Timeline on everyone’s minds now, it can be easy to forget that 12 months ago the social network had redesigned profiles to include more photos and information at a glance, eliminating the horizontal tab structure that had been in place since 2008.

All-in-One Messaging
Users began to get access to the new Messages product, which groups all direct messages between users whether they are viewing a conversation from the inbox, chat window or mobile.

Sponsored Stories
In an effort to make advertising more relevant by including social context, Facebook introduced Sponsored Stories that allow advertisers to pay to promote activity on the site, such as likes or check-ins. The company added more Sponsored Story types in April and June.

Memorable Status Updates
Perhaps hinting at the nostalgia-inducing Timeline to come later in the year, Facebook began displaying users’ status updates and stories from the past.

Secure Browsing
Facebook started giving users the option of accessing Facebook over an encrypted connection and encouraged developers to obtain a Secure Sockets Layer certificate to make their iframe apps accessible to users with secure browsing enabled. Since then, the company has prompted users to switch to HTTPS and made SSL certificates mandatory for all developers.

February

Page Redesign
Page owners got a number of new features to help them manage their communities. These included activity notifications, “Use Facebook as a Page,” and a spam filter for comments. Fan pages were also designed to look more like the new user profiles and place pages, which displayed applications vertically on the left hand side rather than in tabs across the top. Advertisers also gained the option of driving ads to any landing tab, not just the default.

Improved Like Button 
Clicking the Like Button began sharing full-sized stories in the News Feed rather than the one-line Recent Activity stories it previously generated. This along with the Send button that came in April have replaced the Share button, which Facebook no longer supports.

Real-Time Commenting
Facebook made commenting more like chat by removing the “Post” button and instead publishing comments after a user hits “enter” on the keyboard. Since this leads to more accidental comments, Facebook later began giving users a 12-second window to edit their comment.

March

Questions
After a Q&A product similar to Quora never made it out of beta in 2010, Facebook relaunched Questions as a poll feature aimed at helping users get recommendations from their friends. Pages began using the feature to engage their fans with questions that had a more viral effect than plain-text posts.

Deals Subscription Service
Facebook seemed to be taking on Groupon when it began a new pre-paid deals service for users in select cities, but it discontinued the test in August.

April

Updated Groups
Ahead of the rumored Google+ launch, Facebook made improvements to its Groups product aimed at helping people share with subsets of their friends. Most notably, group admins gained the ability to approve people before they are added to the group. Users could now also upload photo albums or ask Questions within groups.

Send Button
The Send button was introduced as a way for people to share articles and third-party websites with groups of friends, whereas the Like button posts to all a users’ friends.

May

New Ad Analytics
Facebook made several changes to its advertising analytics dashboard to focus on performance indicators such as Page Likes, app installs and social reach, rather than older online advertising metrics such as CPM.