Facebook recently launched a new Home Page design and is also planning more changes for how Facebook Applications can engage users. A fairly technical developer roadmap has been published by Facebook but we’ll try to summarize here:
With the current round of changes Facebook Applications going to take a hit initially in terms of traditional user engagement tools. Facebook Notifications will be discontinued soon, instead Facebook Applications will be expected to communicate with users via Email or the Application Newsfeed Items. Facebook Invites and Requests will also be moving to the Facebook Inbox and won’t have a prominent screen location.
These changes are consistent with Facebook’s direction of forcing user application engagement into the Facebook Newsfeed/Stream. Given the level of Application spam we’ve seen from Facebook Games and other noisy application this seems to be the correct direction to maintain an engaged user base.
With more and more communication moving to the Facebook Inbox a number of changes are planned to provide better filtering on communication. Facebook has provided the following preview of how Invites will be filtered in the new Inbox:
Facebook Profile boxes and Extended Profile Information ( rarely used ) will be discontinued but users can still manually add a Tab on their profile for their favourite Facebook Applications. And example of the Facebook Profile Tab, using the Where I’ve been Application:
The Facebook Tab functionality has been available for while but has been widely under used by users. We’re not expecting this to change unless Facebook provides a greater push to educate users to provide tools to make adding a Facebook Tab easier.
Facebook Application Newsfeed items will be moved to the new Application or Game Bashboards. An example of the Game Dashboard:
The Dashboard will show your activity in applications you’ve used recently. Your Friends recently used Applications will also be displayed, if there privacy settings allow them. A smaller Application Directory will also be included on the Dashboard with popular Applications. One of the most engaging aspects of the Facebook Application Dashboard is the addition of small notification “counters” indicating activity within the Dashboards. This is a similar process to the iPhone and other platforms to provide subtle notice of activity that the user can investigate further.
We’re expecting that the separate Application Dashboard should allow Applications to engage more directly with users and avoid a lot of the noise associated with the Facebook Games. The main unknown is how quickly and how often users will use the Application Dashboards.
In this round of updates, the Facebook Pages have received very little in the way of new functionality but maybe the most telling is the lack of change. Facebook Pages can still issue items into the Facebook Newsfeed/Stream and continue to be a very powerful tool to engage Facebook users. Even with the stock functionality of Facebook Page it can very engaging and it can also host Facebook Applications as specialized Tabs for Contests or News Letter information.
Facebook Connect Additions
Facebook continues to add more functionality to Facebook Connect and provide the ability to use Facebook functionality on external sites. Facebook Chat can now be integrated into external websites and instant messaging services. The Facebook Translations engine can also be used on external websites to provide translation functionality similar to what is available inside of Facebook.
Facebook’s roadmap also has commitments to increased support for Facebook Connect through what they are calling the Open Graph API. The intent behind the Open Graph API is to allow external websites to duplicate much of the function of their Facebook Page on their own website. In this way the engagement they have with users can be same inside Facebook or on their own website.
– Colin Smillie –