Facebook is holding a mysterious event next week to introduce "a new look" for its tired News Feed, and, yes, the speculation has begun. We're talking about the homepage of the second-biggest website in the world here, people, and Facebook's entire mobile future may depend on a move like this. And even though the social network revamped the feed just last year, how much do you really use that ticker on the left-hand side? This is going to be bigger — the last time Mark Zuckerberg held one of these big events at Facebook HQ, he unveiled Graph Search, which not too many people use yet but was a lot more important than some lowly corner of a page. Here's what a revamp might look like:
A New Mobile App Interface
Facebook already has apps for pretty much everything — Messenger for chatting (and replacing cellphones), Camera for photos (not to mention Instagram), Poke. They're clean, simple, and not too crowded. But the Facebook mobile app is basically all News Feed, all the time, and everywhere — it's like a shrunken down version of the desktop site, which is ugly and doesn't make much sense for users or advertisers. But Facebook, like most tech sites, has been on a serious mobile kick, with an update that made its app faster along with the release of other phone-based products. So remaking the News Feed to look better on phones would make a lot of sense, and maybe the desktop version can go from there.
Big Pictures and Videos
Yeah, but what's this thing gonna look like? TechCrunch's John Constine claims he saw the "employee-only iOS app build of an evolved form of Facebook's mobile news feed." He didn't have any intel on whether that would come to the rest of us. But it would fall in line with a mobile-first strategy, and here's what Constine said it looked like:
The news feed of the evolved Facebook app I’ve seen creates separate feeds for a few different content types including news and photos. Users navigate between them by swiping sideways on a photo that serves as a header tile filling the top quarter or so of a portrait layout iPhone screen. Below the header is a larger body tile that takes up most of the rest of the screen. From what I saw, it shows one story at a time, with text and who posted it laid on top of a full-screen image.
By separating content into different sections, Facebook has given each story a lot more room to breathe, and that means bigger everything. Constine offers the (very) rough mock-up pictured at right—Facebook wouldn't let him take screenshots of its internal News Feed app—but basically the visuals take up (a lot) more of the screen.
That jibes with Nicholas Carlson's very shaky tea-leaf reading over at Business Insider, for both a mobile and desktop refresh. Looking at a transcript from a January 30 call with investors, Carlson reads a lot into Zuckerberg's use of the words "bigger pictures," "richer media," and "video"—and his talking about the "different kinds of media" that make News Feed ads perform better. Along with the likely redesign of the phone app, Facebook is pretty sure to offer up a more ad-friendly desktop interface with more pictures, delightful autoplay ads, and a more visual experience. It's where the web is going anyway. Bigger is better.
Speaking of ads, the new News Feed has to benefit Facebook's bottom line. Since Facebook went public, pretty much every move it has made has somehow attempted to make money, even at the expense of its users. Graph Search was in part a play to take ad dollars away from Google, and now Carlson thinks those much rumored and very terrible autoplay video ads will accompany this redesign because they make more money than the text- and photo-based ads. But marketers would love anything with bigger, more prominent images or text that it can stick in your face.
This ad-heavy theory also makes the case for Facebook's News Feed refresh pretty much has to involve a mobile redesign. Its user base is moving toward phones—fast—and even though Facebook's mobile ads have made more money, they haven't made enough money. The company just confirmed its purchase of Atlas, a service that helps advertisers measure how well a campaign is doing. The social network will specifically use the service for mobile, Facebook's Brian Boland told Bloomberg. Just don't say we didn't warn you.