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Facebook Redesign Rankles Faithful

Facebook redesign protest
Facebook users are once again in an uproar over a set of changes in the popular social networking site.

Facebook recently updated its home page to give it a more real-time flavor, incorporating a status update box that bears an uncanny resemblance to microblogging phenom Twitter.

The redesign, rolled out last week, added the Twitter-like update box at the top center of the screen, and includes every activity that a person's friends have shared in the news feed, which Facebook now calls the real-time stream.

But many members have rejected the changes, complaining that the site is now too busy and confusing to navigate, littered with information they aren't interested in seeing but can't escape in the new design. In consolidating the activity updates in the new real-time stream, Facebook added new filters to the left side of the page to give people greater control over what appears on their home page, but that's small solace to the thousands of users now in open revolt over the changes.

A group has formed on the site bearing the name, "Facebook Users Want the Old Facebook Back!" As of this writing, the group had more than 270,000 members.

The group hopes to gain enough support among the community that Facebook will ultimately and permanently reinstate the old layout.

"Let's admit that we were very disappointed when we noticed the new layout, which is awful and hard to navigate unlike the old version of Facebook," the group declares.

Separately, an application has also appeared where people can vote (thumbs up/thumbs down) on the new design, and weigh in with comments on the changes.

As one might expect, the comment list is all over the map. Responses range from positive to neutral to extremely negative, coherent to garbled, and adhere to varying standards of decency.

In a statement e-mailed to InternetNews.com, Facebook spokeswoman Brandee Barker said the company is taking its users' feedback "very seriously," but declined to comment on the company's thinking on the matter.

"We are listening carefully to what people are saying about the new home page through a variety of channels," including the comments on the voting app, Barker said.

Scanning through the mostly negative feedback on that app a few themes emerge. The comments are peppered with words like "confusing," "too much information," "messy" and "disorganized." Many comments contained some variation of the old adage, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Here's a sampling:

"Too much like Twitter. Too many quiz responses. Not enough info I care about," wrote user April Matchett.

On the other hand, Jake Gentry writes: "I think it's pretty alright and could care less. Stop whining. Facebook doesn't have to provide you all with this service, so deal with it."

[cob:Special_Report]Another user, Ted Adams, strikes a happy, neutral ground: "Switzerland on this one. A little irritated at first, but in the end it's still the same. Keep tweaking and then every 6 mos throw out an outrageous redesign. Otherwise, what would we complain about... the Economy?"

Still another user, Patrick Burke, gets right to the heart of the thing when he writes, "Cut the bulls***. Bring back the old version."

And on it goes.

It seems like we've heard this song before. Facebook users are a vocal breed. In much the same way as when eBay changes its listing policies and its sellers cry "Boycott!", Facebookers have a history of getting up in a lather over changes to the site they obviously love so dearly.

It happened almost two years ago when Facebook first rolled out the news feeds. It happened again with the Beacon advertising debacle. Then again with an earlier redesign six months ago. And then there was last month's change to the site's terms of service, where Facebook for a few days seemed to assert ownership of the content its users posted before quickly recanting.

Shortly after that last privacy flap, Facebook gave itself a democratic makeover. It posted two governance documents -- one a broad statement of principles, the other a more detailed usage agreement -- and asked its users to submit comments. If certain provisions prove sufficiently controversial, Facebook said it will put them to a vote.

But that only applies to the governance of the site, not to specific products, and not to the redesign. So it remains unclear whether the uproar will fade as the Facebook faithful get used to the changes and lose interest in the protest (as many have suggested), or whether the opposition will sustain itself and effect a policy change.