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Once again Facebook are keeping us all on our toes, having put us all through another drastic layout and feature change. According to Mashable, Facebook want to be the place online that connects all other places. They want to breathe some passion back into the relationship between their platform and the approximate 750million users that interact with it. A raft of changes they’ve made and changes they will be making in the coming weeks are going to be released at the F8 conference in San Francisco today.

When Google+ came into the market I was delighted to see that Google had done something different from what was already out there, rather than just re-creating Facebook, or Twitter, with a G+ badge. The coolest features that Google+ offered, that nobody else was doing were: Notifications that you could interact with on the right hand side of the page. And on the left in G+ you have “streams” that allow you to filter your news feeds by the category of relationship you have with the people you are connected to.

So, if I just wanted to see what my “Close Friends” were saying I could select my “friends” stream…you get the idea! The Facebook changes released over the last day appear to me to be Facebook basically reprogramming their User Interface to do all the cool stuff G+ already does. This latest Facebook update should be called the Facebook+ update in fact.

Understandable that they would want to fend off Google’s advances and do everything they can to remain in the top spot, and as much as having your idea’s ripped off sucks, for the rest of us who use Facebook these changes are actually pretty cool once you get over the initial feeling of being completely lost.

Facebook changes; What you need to know

For anyone who has used Google+, the new changes to Facebook won’t be that difficult to get your head around. For those of you haven’t, it would seem from the phone conversations I’ve had yesterday, it’s a little bit more confusing.

But fear not, although it looks quite different, once you get over the anxiety of very little being where you expect it you will should find it easier to stay on top of things.

The 5 major Facebook Changes

1)      Your news feed is no longer the news feed you know and love/hate

In the Facebook of old your news feed was basically sorted either by the updates Facebook thought you would want to see (based on who you interact with the most) or if you selected it at the top of your feed you could view the latest news updates from your friends (in other words the information was displayed chronologically).

Now Facebook have introduced Recent Stories and Top Stories. These are basically the same thing as before, however now they are displayed inline and on the same page. The main beneficial upgrade to this feature is that we all now have more control over what makes it into our Top Stories.

Before Facebook decided passively based on usage patterns what was shown to us now we can mark or unmark items Top Story’s which gives the Facebook engine pointers as to what we want to see. You will recognise your Top Stories because they have a little blue corner on the left.

2)      There are these new-fangled things called “Lists”

If you have a lot of different types of relationships on Facebook, or on any social media platform, it is extremely useful to be able to filter the information or news updates by relationship. So for example, out of the box Facebook has set up Close Friends and Family lists. If I want to quickly what to check what is going on with my family, I can filter out everyone else by clicking the Family list. Facebook will then display a feed of the updates from the people I have added to that list as Family.

For businesses this could be really powerful because you can create lists. So perhaps you would create a list of suppliers, and a separate list of people that buy Product A from you. You could have another list of people who buy Product B and so on.

Every business is different and how you can best group your connections is something worth thinking about but the important thing is that you can create your own custom lists and better still you can add people to multiple lists.

3)      The Live Ticker

On the right hand side of the screen attached to the top of the chat panel you will see a Live Ticker which is updating with everything that happens on Facebook with your connections as it happens. If you hover over it more detail that you can interact with pops up. Think: Twitter meets Google+

As things stand the ticker doesn’t work when you are using FB as your fanpage so we will have to wait and see what FB do with this feature for business.

4)      Subscriptions

“Subscriptions” is an area where a lot of confusion seems to be arising. First of all it’s important to note that you don’t have to do anything with this if you don’t want to and Facebook will continue to function as it has done – you will still receive updates from your friends and connections and all the people following you will also receive your updates.

However now you can chose for people who are not your friends to also receive your updates. Of course they have to find you and subscribe to you in order to receive those updates but it is possible to broadcast your updates without friending someone. (think Twitter or Google+)

By default you are subscribed to everything that your friends broadcast, however you can edit which types of information they send you. For example, I always switch of updates about games, because I REALLY don’t care how my friends are getting on in Farmville!!

When you view your own profile underneath your picture you will find links to all of the usual suspects: Wall, Info, Photos…etc. At the bottom of this section you will notice two new links: Subscriptions and Subscribers

If you would like people to be able to get your status updates without having to become your friend then the process is quite simple.

  • Click on the Subscribers link
  • On the top right you’ll see an “Edit Settings” button.
  • A window will pop up allowing you to control the settings around subscriptions

5)      Some controls have moved

For fanpage usage the controls have not really been touched, but it will be interesting to see how these changes trickle down to the fanpage in time.

When you are using Facebook as your own profile you will notice now when you view any of your friends profiles there are a number of new items. First you’ll see on the top right the addition of buttons labelled “Friends” and “Subscribed” 

Friends is a button that will control what list that person is added to. Subscribed controls what updates you see on your feed from that person. So for example if you don’t want to find out about someone’s Treasure Hunt progress, or Poker updates, then you can simply un-tick the Games option and hey presto no more inane updates that you don’t care about.

All in all it is my opinion that the changes are a good thing, even if they are basically a carbon copy of Google+. I think they will impact on the way that we all use Facebook and hopefully for the better.

For the moment they are going to take a bit of getting used to for most but as with all the other changes FB have brought in, in a few months we will all have forgotten what the old Facebook used to be like.

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