Facebook’s Facelifts

Facebook is a big fan of rearranging the furniture. And with every change comes the outcry from its users; status updates are dominated with complaints, groups pop up, it’s the end of the world as we know it… And then everything blows over and we’re suddenly cool with the changes. In fact, we usually can’t remember what Facebook was like before.

For some websites, like Digg, radical changes to the look and feel of a site can result in a catastrophic loss of your loyal followers. And yet Facebook seems immune to any such exodus; everyone uses Facebook because everyone uses Facebook.

It’s only been around for 8 years, but it’s had countless facelifts in this short time. Here’s a look back at how the old FB has changed over time, starting with its humble origins as ‘The Facebook’.

Before Facebook dropped the ‘The’, it had a pretty basic design, but the iconic blue and white design and the basic information it provided was essentially the same. It’s easy to forget that it actually started out as a way for students in US colleges to connect and share information. No Pages. No Newsfeed. No Like button.

In 2006 a basic Newsfeed was added; but we didn’t have the opportunity to litter it with inane status updates until 2008, when the publish feature was added. Facebook gifts were removed in 2007; remember when you could send one of these to a friend on their birthday?

Between 2008 and 2010 we saw what felt like endless additions and modifications. We got the ‘like’ button, which everyone immediately hated, and called for a ‘dislike’ button too. We got apps, which divided the Facebook population into Farmville players and non-Farmville players. (This also opened up Facebook to new and exciting avenues of advertising.) We also got brand pages, which was probably the point at which everyone accepted that you must to be on Facebook. It gave some businesses the opportunity to move away from the traditional website structure and be a little more social in their approach to marketing.

In 2011 there was a major upheaval of the Facebook Feed; rather then giving users chronological updates, a ‘top story’ was selected (using a seemingly arbitrary method) and the rest was neglected at the bottom of the page. A ticker was also added, at the right of the page, which gives real-time updates. This was fairly unpopular, since we seemed to be seeing a lot less Facebook activity from the people we care about, and a lot more random junk on our Newsfeed. But the most unpopular change was still to come…

The introduction of the Timeline in place of traditional profiles has caused numerous problems for users, not just because it essentially allows Facebook to dig up and display your past. Whether you want to complete your life story using the Timeline feature, or if you’d prefer to hide your less flattering moments, it’s going to be time consuming to get your profile the way you want it.

So is the Timeline just another feature that we’ll eventually learn to love? Or is this just one step too far?