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Friday, March 8, 2013

Facebook Shows Off New Home Page Design, Including Bigger Pictures

Facebook Shows Off New Home Page Design, Including Bigger Pictures

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and chief executive, announced a major makeover of its home page on Thursday.

MENLO PARK, Calif. â€" Hoping to tame the blizzard of information that has turned off many users and discouraged some advertisers, Facebook on Thursday unveiled a major makeover of the home page that greets users when they log into the site.

A screenshot of Facebook's redesigned news feed.

The new design of the Facebook News Feed presents bigger photos and links, including for advertisements, and lets users see specialized streams focused on topics like music and posts by close friends.

The changes are designed to address the company’s two most vital challenges: how to hold on to users at a time of competing, specialized social networks and how to draw more advertising dollars to please Wall Street.

Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s co-founder and chief executive, said at a news conference that he wanted Facebook to be “the best personalized newspaper in the world.” And like a newspaper editor, he wants the “front page” of Facebook to be more engaging â€" in particular on the smaller screens of mobile devices.

The topic-specific News Feeds could well persuade users to spend more time scrolling through various streams of content. And the redesign will offer bigger real estate for advertisers, including more opportunities for brands to feature bigger pictures, which marketers say are more persuasive than words.

Facebook’s proprietary algorithms, which try to guess what every user will want to see, will continue to filter the items that show up on each person’s main News Feed. And users will be able to drill down into specific topics they are interested in, akin to the sections of a newspaper.

For instance, they can switch over to specialized feeds that are focused on just the music they are interested in, or they can scroll through a feed that consists of posts from the pages of products and people they follow â€" a bit like Twitter. If they want to see everything that their friends have posted, they can choose to do that, too; those posts will rush down in chronological order, without any filtering by Facebook’s robots.

Facebook introduced the new design to some users of the Web version of its service on Thursday, and will extend it to all Web users and to mobile apps in coming weeks.

It’s unclear how users will react to the changes; in the past, major design changes have often been greeted by complaints, at least initially.

Investors seemed to welcome the new look. Shares of Facebook rose 4.1 percent on Tuesday, to $28.58. But the company’s stock price remains substantially lower than its $38 initial public offering price last May.

Facebook is clearly hoping the new format will encourage users to stay longer on the site. At the news conference to announce the changes, officials offered examples of content they hoped would be compelling: photos of a cousin’s babies on one area of the page, Justin Timberlake concert news on another, a list of stories your friends liked on National Public Radio on still another.

“The best personalized newspaper should have a broad diversity of content,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “The most important stuff is going to be on the front page,” he went on. “Then people have a chance to dig in.”

The announcement met with swift praise from the advertising industry. In addition to bigger ad formats, the redesign’s specialized content streams could keep users glued to the site longer, marketers said.

“This will result in more time spent over all on the Facebook News Feed â€" and of course, increase engagement with content and ads,” said Hussein Fazal, chief executive of AdParlor, which buys advertisements on Facebook on behalf of several brands.

Facebook executives suggested that there would be no immediate changes to the number of advertisements that appear on the News Feed.

Julie Zhou, the company’s design chief, said only that ads would be more visual. “Everything across the board is going to get this richer, more immersive design,” Ms. Zhou said.

A version of this article appeared in print on March 8, 2013, on page B4 of the New York edition with the headline: Facebook Shows Off New Home Page Design, Including Bigger Pictures.