Continuing its streak of product launches and modifications, Facebook yesterday rolled out even more changes to its interface, which include an updated News Feed and an activity ticker. These latest additions follow a privacy center redesign, the introduction of Subscriptions and Facebook's new friend lists.
The News Feed redesign is intended to help you keep up with people that matter to you, regardless of how often you visit the site, according to Mark Tonkelowitz, an engineering manager at Facebook. It's heavily influenced by the new "smart lists" introduced last week, as the redesigned news feed "predicts" which stories will be important to you, and displays these first.
Facebook users, who are notorious for aversion to change, are already voicing their opinions, calling this redesign everything from "unnecessary" to "far too complicated."
Here's what you need to know about the new News Feed and ticker, how best to navigate them and whether the new changes influence your current privacy settings.
1. What You See Depends on How Often You Visit
Before yesterday's changes, when you logged into Facebook you could toggle between two views of your News Feed: Top News and Most Recent. Yesterday, Facebook combined these two in a single News Feed. Now, what you see when you first log in depends on how frequently you log in.
If you don't visit Facebook regularly, the next time you do you'll see top photos and status updates that were posted since the last time you visited the site. These are marked with a blue corner.
If you log into Facebook frequently, such as several times a day, you'll likely see the most recent stories first.
Even if you don't log in regularly, you can still view the most recent activity—just scroll down past the top stories until you see the "Recent Stories" header.
[Want more tips, tricks and details on Facebook privacy? Check out CIO.com's Facebook Bible.]
2. What's a Top Story?
According to Facebook, top stories are ones that it thinks you'll find interesting, based on a number of factors. These include your relationship to the person who posted the story, how many comments and likes it has, the type of post it is, and more.
Much like Google's Priority Inbox, it appears you may be able to help Facebook fine-tune what it thinks is and isn't important to you. If you hover over the top-right corner of a post that Facebook marks as a top story, a drop-down menu will appear.
If this post isn't something you'd consider important, you can choose the "Unmark as top story" option, which will remove it from that part of your News Feed.
From this drop-down list you can also hide the story from your News Feed, tweak how many updates you see from this person and unsubscribe from the user or just his or her updates. Another way to remove the post from top stories is to click the blue corner.
3. Facebook's New Ticker
On the right side of your News Feed you'll see a new element—the ticker—which is a stream of what's happening on Facebook in real-time. Updates in this stream include status updates, friendships, photos, videos, links, likes, apps and games activity and comments.
The ticker shares the right-hand column of your browser with Chat. While you can't close the ticker, you can make it smaller by sliding the bar between the ticker and chat, though this feature is contingent on the size of your browser.
Sliding the bar up will make the ticker smaller and Chat larger; sliding it down will make ticker larger and chat smaller. Clicking on an item in the ticker will expand it to display more information.
If you want to see fewer stories or fewer types of stories in the ticker, you can click the drop-down menu in the top right of a story and click "Hide story." Do note that every time you use the hide and unsubscribe settings to control what you see in your News Feed, it will also impact what you see in the ticker. For example, if you unsubscribed from a friend's posts via your News Feed, they will also be unsubscribed from the ticker.
4. How Your Privacy Settings Are Affected
Facebook says that the new News Feed and the ticker do not affect your privacy settings. Ticker will only display information that you're already able to see anywhere else on Facebook. Facebook does say, however, that if you start seeing stories that you haven't noticed before, it's likely because "ticker makes things easier to discover. It doesn't mean that privacy around Facebook has changed."
To control who sees your posts in the News Feed and ticker, be sure you use the privacy control in the Update Status box. Also remember that the comment privacy is tied to the privacy of the post: If you comment on someone's public post, your comment is thereby also public.
If you play games like FarmVille or use apps, Facebook publishes your activity to the News Feed and ticker. To control what apps or games information shows up in the ticker, you need to visit the privacy preferences in your Application Settings. Here, you can set the individual settings for each application by clicking "Edit" next to the application's name.
Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and Web 2.0 for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at firstname.lastname@example.org