Facebook celebrates 6th birthday with redesign

Social networking site also signs up its 400 millionth Facebook user this week

Facebook is celebrating its sixth anniversary with another redesign of its homepage.

Employees at Facebook last night were celebrating the company's anniversary, passing the 400 million user mark and the launch of yet another home page makeover.

The redesign is the latest of several home page changes launched by the company in recent years -- many times to the consernation of its users. The latest makeover, according to Jing Chen, a Facebook engineer, is focused improving navigation to the many features on the site.

"We think sharing information about the applications you use enriches the shared experience between you and your friends," said Chen in a Facebook blog post. "We hope the simplified design of the home page will make it easy for you to stay connected with the people, applications and activities that matter the most to you."

For example, the updated home page provides alerts about messages, notifications and requests. And the menu on the left-hand side of the page has added links to messages, events, photos and applications. If you click on "friends", a list of friend suggestions pops up, along with friend search options. Click on "applications" and you can see what Facebook apps your friends have been using.

Comments about the redesign posted beneath Chen's blog entry show that many users aren't so happy with the changes.

"New look is AWFUL!!!!! Please change back to old look and leave it alone," wrote one user. "Once more Facebook makes changes that don't work without doing proper testing," posted another.

While most of the comments on the site were negative, some users were happy about the changes. Wrote one user: "I love the new home page! It's great and I love the ease of access for the inbox etc."

With this makeover, Facebook also is trying to deal with complaints uttered after the last redesign about about privacy controls. Some Facebook users had complained loudly last fall that the redesign made it harder for them to maintain their own privacy settings.

The latest redesign looks to rectify that issue, Chen said.

"We feel strongly that control is an important element of any information sharing on Facebook," wrote Chen. "That's why these features are launching with an entirely new privacy setting. If you would rather not have your recent application activity visible in the dashboards to your friends, you can change this through your Privacy settings. We're also working on a more granular set of controls for specific applications, so that you can turn off activity for certain applications while leaving it on for others. We'll have more information to share on this soon."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, send e-mail to sgaudin@computerworld.com or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed .

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