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Facebook's at It Again: More Changes, More Grumbling

Facebook is the Heidi Montag of the Internet. Just when you get used to one look, it undergoes some radical plastic surgery and changes everything. The latest incarnation of the social network has got users talking -- and they don't have a lot of nice things to say. Some call it slower. Others say it's cluttered. And lots of people seem to wonder where their status-update feeds went. Backlash against Facebook redesigns is a regular occurrence, of course, but this time some of the complaints seem legitimate.

Rolled out on the site's sixth anniversary, the redesign uses links along the left-hand side of the page to improve the visibility of commonly used features, like pictures and applications. It's also much easier to see which friends are online and available to chat. And new messages, requests and notifications now show at the top left of the screen -- making them more noticeable, at least in theory. But as is common with any major redesign, things haven't gone as smoothly as everyone would hope. "Dear Facebook," wrote user Chris Donahue in his status update. "Thank you for making what used to be the simplest tasks on your site infinitely more complicated."

Facebook Design Changes

For instance, viewing your friends' most recent updates has become a challenge. Some have complained they are only seeing one or two updates per hour. Others are occasionally told there are "no updates to show at this time." "My feed keeps saying the same thing as if nothing has changed at all," says user Rebecca Larsen Slusarchyk. "I keep getting a feed on people's status from yesterday and no one has even added a new comment." Mobile users aren't spared, either. Facebook for iPhone has proven sketchy since the redesign. Even the sync between Twitter and Facebook was temporarily broken (although it now seems to be working fine). Basically, since commonly used elements have been shuffled around the page, users are having trouble finding the very things Facebook was trying to make more accessible.

Getting Things Working

Old tricks, like viewing the 'Most Recent' feed instead of 'Top News,' haven't proven as effective as they used to be, but there are a couple of possible short-term solutions. Some people have had success by changing the 'maximum number of friends shown in the 'Live Feed' field from 250 to 9999 via the 'edit options' button at the bottom of the feed. Others, seeking an easier path, are changing their default page to -- eliminating a lot of the clutter.

At first, it looks like Facebook completely removed your custom lists of friends entirely from the site. They're still available, but are no longer linked at the top of your news feed. Instead, click 'Friends' in the left rail; all your old lists will appear in a drop-down list.

Why the Never-Ending Redesigns?

To its credit, Facebook does try to improve the site with each redesign. But the reason for the constant changes is a bit more business-oriented. "I think, first and foremost, this change is about having users spend more time on the site," says Scott Olson, president of Mindlink Marketing. "What they're trying to do is have more real-time interaction among Facebook users -- and become less of an e-mail box... I think they're under pressure from Twitter -- -- where they're just becoming another feed."

So, there are some sound reasons for the change. But, because the site has become so personal to people (as a repository for their photos, conversations with friends, and contact lists), any sort of alteration elicits a knee-jerk reaction.

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Tags: facebook, features, redesign, socialnetworking, top, web