Facebook obsessives were atwitter last night about a "Lite" new version of the social network, which strips away much of its ballooning trove of information. Wait, how did Facebook get so cluttered in the first place?
The social network's spring redesign was controversial for a number of reasons, but one of the biggest complaints was its maddeningly heavy stream of information. Intended to simplify Facebook, a new unified feed of information from friends overwhelmed users with noise; vital information was crowded out. Users revolted, and Facebook had its very own New Coke moment.
Now it's created Coca-Cola Classic. The new "lite" site has already been compared to the "simplified look... of the old days of Facebook." The company told TechCrunch the new design is intended to load "a specific set of features quickly and efficiently," sort of like Facebook used to do, before it started throwing way too many features together on everyone's home stream. Here's the site's progression in pictures:
Facebook, which fancies itself a limber young startup, would not appreciate being compared to Microsoft, which is flailing its way through a mid-life crisis. But its decision to launch a clean new interface to its sprawling website sounds a lot like the sort of thing the Redmond, Washington software company has been up to in recent years. The heavy-handed Vista operating system has been turned into the faster, leaner Windows 7. Microsoft Office has also added features, only to strip them out later. As former Microsoftie Joel Spolsky has written,
With all due respect to my friends on the Office team, I can't help but feel that there hasn't been a useful new feature in Office since about 1995... You can't think of any new features, so you put in the paperclip, and then you take out the paperclip, and you try to charge people both times, and they aren't falling for it...
An alternate theory: Facebook isn't reversing itself, it's merely trying to reach more modem users, including in the third world. Ah yes, impoverished dial-up users, the holy grail of any advertising-driven website!