Page last updated at 01:18 GMT, Thursday, 11 September 2008 02:18 UK

Facebook imposes site facelift

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

new redesigned Facebook
The emphasis is on a less cluttered look, Facebook says of its redesign

Facebook's facelift will become permanent for all its 100 million users, like it or not.

Since unveiling the makeover seven weeks ago, Facebook had given users the freedom to stay with the old design or switch to the new one.

Now everyone will be forced to change despite groups forming on Facebook to protest against the move.

"It's pretty lame they couldn't let us keep the old design alongside the new one," said student Scott Sanders.

Compatible

His protest page called Petition Against the "New Facebook" is the most popular group with nearly a million supporters criticising the move from the old format.

"I was contacted by one of the product managers at Facebook who explained in detail why they did some of the things they did. He kept telling me it was to make it 'more user friendly.'

"But they're smart guys. Why couldn't they figure out to make both designs compatible and let those that want to stay with the old design do that?" the 19-year-old student from Tennessee told the BBC.

Facebook said such a proposition simply would not have worked.

"We can't maintain both versions, and we really think you'll like the new Facebook once you get used to the changes, " wrote Mark Slee on the company blog.

Navigation

Facebook said about 40 million users had already tried out the new design and about 30 million embraced it without reverting to the old look.

The company has described the makeover as being cleaner and simpler with customised tabs, faster navigation and better filter feeds to share top stories, photos or events.

new redesign Facebook
Facebook said users would have more control over their profile page

The new look site will also let users separate their personal profiles into different areas of the site and shift various applications to the bottom of a person's home page.

"Any change can be a big deal to our users because this is how they connect with their family and friends," said company founder Mark Zuckerberg.

"So when you move things around, it can be perceived as being not a positive thing even when it's a positive change."

Another major upgrade has been the improved integration of third party applications, which has been welcomed by the music sharing site iLike. It has around 16 million users signed up through Facebook

"The new direction will tilt things in favour of apps that are more focused on quality rather than on viral tactics," explained iLike's chief executive Ali Partovi.

"It will become more a survival of the fittest, an environment we welcome gladly."

Apologies

By introducing the changes gradually Facebook was hoping to avoid the problems of previous revisions to the site.

In 2006, the start-up infuriated thousands of users by introducing a tool called "news feeds" that automatically broadcast certain personal details.

Facebook
Some analysts warn that users may shift to rival sites in protest

Last year, Facebook faced another revolt with a device called Beacon that tracked and shared information about a user's shopping habits and other activities at other websites.

On both occasions, Mr Zuckerberg had to apologise to users.

"There is more weight on making things smooth when you are dealing with 100 million people," he said.

"Noone cared as much when a bunch of students from a few colleges were complaining about some changes to some website."

The number of users that Facebook has today means it has to tread carefully, said Jeremiah Owyang, an analyst with Forrester.

"There could be a community backlash as we have seen before. It is a really touchy line between users, brands and privacy and Facebook have not been as forthcoming in the past about changes as they should have. "

For his part, Scott Sanders, who is studying marketing at Austin Peay University in Tennessee, said he would not desert the site even though he did not agree with what was happening.

"Personally I think it's a bit rash for people to say they will leave Facebook. It is still one of the best, if not the best, social networking site on the internet.

"So I will not leave. I will try to get used to it even though I don't like it, but I will try."


SEE ALSO
Facebook to police site add-ons
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West Wing writer tackles Facebook
28 Aug 08 |  Entertainment
Learning what makes Facebook tick
21 Apr 08 |  Technology
'Mental risk' of Facebook teens
03 Jul 08 |  Health
End nears in Facebook legal row
14 Aug 08 |  Technology
Facebook agrees child safety plan
08 May 08 |  Technology

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