Home News Facebook revamps to reach out to wider audience

Facebook revamps to reach out to wider audience

Published on 05/03/2009

PALO ALTO – Facebook now lets you have more than 5,000 friends.

Starting next week, you can ignore the ones you’re not that excited about.

The world’s leading online social-networking service on Wednesday unveiled a redesign that adds Twitter-like real-time chatter, better filtering of incoming information, and a platform for reaching mass audiences.

Facebook will begin shifting users to a new home page design on 11 March and posted a preview at the popular social-networking website for its famously change-wary users to check out.

"Our intuition is this is the right direction," Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said in disclosing the changes at the company’s headquarters in Palo Alto, California.

"This isn’t the last time we are going to change this. As long as the amount of people sharing information is going up, we know we are going in the right direction."

Fast-growing Facebook boasts more than 175 million members and Zuckerberg believes that number will crest 200 million by the end of this year.

Facebook on Wednesday lifted a 5,000-friend cap at the website, allowing people with large audiences to have their virtual voices heard instantly by unlimited numbers of fans.

Those signed up for the new Facebook profile pages at its launch include US President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and rock band U2.

The change positions Facebook to try to make money with a feature that provides an online platform for people with brands to promote or messages to spread.

"There is a philosophical change; we want to converge all these different kinds of people on the website," Zuckerberg said. "Bono, the New York Times, public figures and more have messages and want their voices heard by their audiences."

Facebook still lets users filter which friends get access to profile pages that typically hold personal information such as family photos, intimate thoughts and private phone numbers.

Changes announced on Wednesday, which include making the status update question "What’s on your mind?" build on a theme in a Facebook home page redesign in 2008.

Zuckerberg began the presentation by saying he "admires" work done by micro-blogging service Twitter and social-networking rival MySpace and that a clear trend is that people want to stream information quickly.

"Over the past five years, Facebook has evolved to make sharing information more efficient and to give people more control," Zuckerberg said of the website he started in 2004.

"This year, we are going to continue making the flow of information even faster and more customised."

Zuckerberg said he can envision Facebook eventually letting users use smartphones to find out at any given moment what their friends are up to.

The new home page lets people better filter messages or updates from those listed as "friends".

"You can decide you no longer want to get updates from your old friend from high school who you rarely talk to, or you can filter the stream to only see updates about your family members," Zuckerberg said.

"And now, if you want, you can read what President Obama is saying on the same page as your best friend."

New profile pages rolled out Wednesday for public figures and organizations are interactive, allowing Facebook users to post responses on the "walls" of the likes of Sarkozy, Obama, Bono, and talk-show celebrity Oprah Winfrey.

"Obama can post what he thinks of the new economic stimulus package and you can reply ‘Awesome,’" Facebook director of product Chris Cox said.

The list of high-profile people who launched profile pages on Wednesday includes US governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sarah Palin and actor couple Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.

"Just as you connect with friends on Facebook, you can now connect and communicate with celebrities, musicians, politicians and organizations," Zuckerberg said.

"This means that you can find out that Oprah is reading a book backstage before a show, CNN posted a breaking story or U2 is working on a new song, just as you would see that your friend uploaded new photos from her trip."

AFP / Expatica