(CNET) – Facebook today unveiled a redesigned News Feed that incorporates bigger images and allows customization, giving the site a much-needed overhaul that the company hopes will ultimately keep user attention and attract advertisers.

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg noted Facebook’s goals for the new News Feed are richer story design, choice of different feeds, and a consistent experience on mobile devices and desktop Web browsers.

“What we’re trying to do is give everyone in the world the best personalized newspaper we can,” Zuckerberg said. “The best personalized newspaper should be intricate, rich, and engaging.”

The changes include a redesigned layout with larger images of maps, news articles, photos, and apps information, like a Pinterest post. Users can choose to sort the feed chronologically or only look at things like what music people are listening to or what events are happening. And depending on the things a user has liked on Facebook in the past, he or she will see articles that are trending and that are most relevant.

The company noted it has several new feeds to explore in addition to the same News Feed users have today. They include:

  • All Friends — a feed that shows you everything your friends are sharing
  • Photos — a feed with nothing but photos from your friends and the Pages you like
  • Music — a feed with posts about the music you listen to
  • Following — a feed with the latest news from the Pages you like and the people you follow

Chris Cox, vice president of product at Facebook, said the company wanted a “more modern and clean” interface for users. He noted the company took design principles from phones and tablets and brought them over to the Web.

The redesigned News Feed will start rolling out to a small number of people on the Web today and will then show up on phones and tablets over the next few weeks.

“Because this is a big change on the Web, we’re going to be very careful and slow in how we move it out,” Cox said. When the product is more “polished,” it will be rolled out broadly.

The changes shown today are the first big overhaul of News Feed, the first page people see when logging into the site, since Facebook debuted the product in September 2006. The changes could have significant, far-reaching consequences that affect how people use Facebook and determine whether the social network can capitalize on its most prized asset without driving people away.

News Feed may have been due for an update, but that doesn’t mean users are going to like it. Facebook often tweaks its offering and introduces new items to its site, but few changes are as noticeable as the ones made to News Feed. That means few have as big a chance to freak out users. Even the slightest adjustments, like the ability to sort by Top Stories or Most Recent — a feature added in late 2011 — have angered Facebook users who resent change.

As CNET noted yesterday, Facebook needs an updated News Feed to help it regain the status it has lost with teens, a group of digital trendsetters who will determine whether the social network can withstand the test of time or become the next Friendster.

The new, image-centric feed may give these youngsters, who have a predilection for Instagram, a reason to stay and browse a little while longer.

“For users who spend a lot of time on the News Feed, they can quickly exhaust the available stories,” said Hussein Fazal, chief executive of online advertising company Adknowledge. “The ‘switcher’ allows users to scroll though several different news feeds based on what they are looking for — images, games, music, news, best friends, all friends…This will result in more time spent overall on the Facebook News Feed — and of course increase engagement with content and ads.”

Here’s what Facebook fans told CBS4 Chief Consumer Reporter Al Sunshine on his Facebook page:

Kate Semmes

Clutter. They need to go back to the way it was before Timeline.

Bruce Brynes

I’m easy .. free service .. whatever they want to do, I’ll take it .. if I don’t like it I’ll go back to having friends off the computer and more in person

Doug SkeeHart

Hate the changes!!

Marty Merzer

I agree with Bruce. It is important to keep in mind that Facebook is a free service and we are under no obligation to use it. It costs us nothing and it owes us…nothing, really. You like it, use it. You don’t, don’t.

Parker Courtland

i saw it this morning and it made me dizzy. honestly, the choices are nice.

Alvin Lederer

Facebook is like Walmart, they are constantly changing their format to the extent of people not wanting to go there. many people who surf the internet are not as computer smart as the geeks who make the changes and it’s hard for them to adapt to it. they no sooner learn how to navigate on the site and Facebook changes the format. if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

Marty Merzer

Actually, I agree that they should stop messing with success. At the same time, my experience with things like this – both at work and in real life – is that we resent any such changes and then…we get used to them and that is that.


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