Love it or hate it, Facebook has a new format

By Sandra Ecklund

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Facebook got a new face overnight and as usual it has a lot of people up in arms.

One of the biggest changes you'll notice is the addition of what Facebook calls "Top Stories". Instead of the chronological newsfeed of constant updates from your friends, you'll see what Facebook thinks is important. These posts are marked with a little blue triangle in the top left corner which you can click on and tell Facebook if the post is, indeed, important (kind of like telling Pandora that you like a track so it continues to play it on your station).

Below the "Top Stories" section you'll find "Recent Posts". While this feed is chronological, it is not everything that is happening on Facebook in real time the way the newsfeed used to be. For that you'll have to peer to the right and scroll through the small box that Facebook has dubbed the "Ticker".

According to the Facebook Blog, the Ticker is "an easy way to see and chat with your friends about photos, articles, and other things they're posting in real-time...without losing your place." What they fail to mention is that you could do that with the old newsfeed by just right clicking on what you wanted to see and open the link in a new window or tab. Also, hovering over a post in the ticker will display a Google-esque preview pane of that post which includes the likes, comments, and friending notices that are now missing from the main newsfeed.

This merging of "Top Stories" and "Most Recent" will be most evident to those who only visit Facebook sporadically. If you hit the site multiple times a day you'll see the "Top Stories" disappear and "Recent Posts" will continue in much the same way it did before.

One of the few changes that is looked on positively is the larger picture display on your newsfeed. Gone is the black box that appeared when you clicked on a picture to view in full. The picture now rests on a white background so that, according to Facebook, the focus is "on the photo, and less on the surrounding frame".

Some features that will take a lot of work to customize to your own tastes are the Subscribe button and Friends lists. People who have already made their own customized friends lists and want to continue using them can do so, but there is no way to delete the new default lists Facebook has created (Close Friends, Family, Acquaintances, etc) causing redundancy in categorization for many.

You can choose to merge your list with Facebook's using the "Manage List" drop down menu that appears in the upper right hand corner of your screen while you're on a list' page but one of the merged lists will be deleted...and it's not theirs. so if you want to merge "Besties" with "Close Friends", you will be left with the "Close Friends" list only.

The Subscribe feature is a whole other monster all together. It rolled out on September 14th and allows you to decide what you want to see from whom. In order to pick and choose what you see from a friend you have to subscribe to that friend and then customize what you want to leave out. You can choose "All" or what you would see in the ticker; "Most" or what you would see in the main newsfeed; or "Important" which Facebook categorizes as a new job or a move (most likely changes to profile information like change in city, employer, or relationship status).

The main thing with this new feature, however, is the ability to subscribe to people who aren't your friends. If that person has allowed people to subscribe to them, a Subscribe button appears on their profile and you can add their public posts to your newsfeed. The posts they make just to friends, however, will not appear.

Until people get used to the changes, be prepared to see all of your friends' status updates declare their annoyance at Facebook's desire to update...yet again.