Facebook’s New Profile: Keep Calm & Carry On

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Personal information and photos are the focus of Facebook’s latest profile redesign. Unveiled Sunday during CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s TV interview with 60 Minute’s Lesley Stahl, the changes are already available to all users who wish to upgrade before the mandatory switch is made within the next few weeks.

(More on Techland: Zuckerberg Announces New Facebook Profile On 60 Minutes)

The most visible difference is the prominent personal highlights perched at the top of each user’s profile. Like a mad-lib biography, Facebook takes the information you’ve provided (current city, relationship status, work info) and has formatted a small overview of each of its users, similar to social business site LinkedIn. Though it doesn’t seem inherently useful to the network of friends you’ve already acquired, I have a feeling features like this will come in handy for the future of personal search, something Facebook is more than poised to master. A small amount of personal information made public via these formatted bios would become the actual face book Zuckerberg had in mind before “privacy” became a widespread concern and most profiles were closed from public view.

Below the amped up bio is a new photo bank, a stream of recently tagged photos. Though it seems like media display is a main focus of the redesign, the site’s first major change to its profile pages since 2008, Facebook makes it very clear that your privacy settings have not defaulted because of the changes, especially when it comes to photos. The new photo bank is only visible to friends you allow to see your photos. See an unflattering picture in the bunch? Just scroll over it and click the X to eliminate it from your profile. It’s not a game changer, just another way to preview photos of friends. To be honest, the redesign’s most highlighted changes are barely changes at all, and mostly content reshuffling – not that will console irked users who are now venting about the changes via wall post and Twitter. (Calm down before you sprain a finger, you guys.)

Noticeably absent is the “Say Something” box that lived directly below the profile picture, one of my favorite features of the site, your blurb has been transported down to your “About Me” section, and in my mind this moves Facebook into less creative territory, giving Tumblr the undeniable edge with the hip, artsier web user. Services like Twitter and Tumblr will always have a leg up in this way due to their customizable designs. Facebook enforces its uniformity, something users will always resent a little. If they’re smart, they’ll rectify this within the next few years. (More on Techland: Facebook’s New Messaging System Explained)

The site also introduced a new lists feature, which allows users to “highlight the friends who are important to you, such as your family, best friends or teammates,” Facebook engineer Josh Wiseman wrote in the company’s announcement. “Create new groups of friends, or feature existing friends lists” – a page right out of Twitter’s playbook, though with Facebook’s new messaging system, it could be put to better use.

Aesthetically, the redesign looks a bit “Social Media For Dummies.” Per my personal preference, I prefer sleekly designed sites, but Facebook is now in the business of doing self-promotion for you by presenting your profile information in two, sometimes even three places, giving users endless opportunities to keep right on clicking. But more things to click don’t necessarily make the site better, or even more user friendly.

Though I will say that the new messaging tool, able to send messages to friends without leaving their profile, is a great improvement, I was expecting a better improvement to the photos viewer, which is still sluggish, even with a decent Wi-Fi connection. Facebook is right to put more focus on media sharing, something Twitter hasn’t cornered just yet, due to the high volume of users who flock to friends’ new photo albums, but the company has yet to really deliver a significant upgrade to its photo service, especially it’s mobile viewer.

Users looking to upgrade to the new profile can visit Facebook.com/about/profile and click the new profile option. Those participating in the collective outrage will see the change sometime in the next few weeks.

(More on Techland: Why Facebook Deals Is Bad News For Foursquare)

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