Redesigns never used to be anything to write home about with Facebook. During the early years of the world’s largest and most popular social media website, it seemed to go for a new look every year. Those of us who have been around on the site since 2007 have fond memories of ‘poking’ each other and possibly even ‘chucking sheep’ at each other on our ‘super walls,’ but even those strange and long-forgotten customs weren’t part of the first design. That first incarnation was known as ‘the Facebook,’ and most of us never got to see it because it was available only to students at a select number of American universities.
The Facebook look that we know and love (or tolerate) today started to appear in 2008 when the menu bar moved to the top, and your activity shifted to a different part of the website from your profile data. At the same time, profiles took on a less academia-focused look and featured more generalized information.
This was a year after the site opened up to the whole world, killing off MySpace in the process of doing so. The ability to post photos and videos from the top of the news feed rather than dedicated pages appeared in 2010. The following year, the Facebook ‘timeline’ made its debut. The influence of Twitter became apparent in 2014 when hashtags and trending topics made their first appearance on Facebook, and then everything appeared to grind to a halt. Aside from a few minor cosmetic tweaks, the standard Facebook website has looked mostly the same since 2014.
We’ve been using this version of Facebook for such a long time now that the look has become known as ‘classic Facebook’ within the company’s head offices, but classic Facebook is about to become a thing of the past. For the past several months, users in some territories have been able to opt in to a beta test of a brand new Facebook layout; a less cluttered one with larger images, and a stronger emphasis on touchscreen interaction as opposed to an expectation that users will be sat in front of a keyboard with a mouse. It also comes with a ‘dark mode’ feature that’s become common elsewhere on the internet in recent years – perhaps as a reflection of the dark times we’re living in. Not everyone has fallen in love with this new layout, but it seems that enough people have voiced their approval of it for Facebook to make a decision on behalf of the user base. The new design is here to stay. From September, ‘classic’ Facebook will cease to exist.
Facebook made its first attempt to push people over to the new look of the website in May 2020 but provided the option to switch back to the ‘classic’ flavor of the site for those who didn’t like that they saw. It’s thought that several million people took that opportunity, and haven’t been back to the new format since. If you were one of those people, now would be a good time to bite the bullet and make peace with the fact that nothing lasts forever. Even if we accept that there are good reasons to dislike the new layout, we should also accept that the ‘classic’ site was beginning to look extremely dated. Six years is a long time in web design, and the site had started to look basic and stale. For a company that was once viewed as being light years ahead of the times, that’s a very bad thing, and the only real surprise is that it’s taken the powers-that-be within the company this long to pull the trigger on the enforced changeover.
In the past, Facebook wouldn’t take the time to worry about such trivial matters as whether users would like their changes or not. They’d just make them, and users would find them and have to deal with them the next time they logged in.
Three Columned Look
For those who haven’t seen it yet, this ‘new’ Facebook might be best described as a three-columned look, with all of the pictures, news, and other ‘interactive’ aspect’ positioned in the central column, and less ‘exciting’ content (contact names, group shortcuts, ‘events’ pages and the like) split off to either side. Given the dark background and the drawing of focus to the center, it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that it looks a little bit like a modern online slots website.
The comparison wouldn’t even be totally unfair; one of the many new interests that Facebook has developed within the past two years is a partnership with a company that provides online slots games, resulting in a sort of Facebook-based online slots casino that you don’t have to leave the website to use. This might be coincidental – the new format is allegedly optimized for mobile browsing, as are most of the better online slots site – but it’s been the first thought of many people who’ve seen the new design.
Facebook may offer you the option to switch to the new format the next time you log into the desktop version of the site. If it doesn’t, you should be able to find it under your ‘settings’ tab. Don’t worry about getting stuck with it by taking the option if you try it and find you don’t like it – you’ll still have the option to switch back to the ‘classic’ format if you so desire – but this option will disappear completely on an unspecified day in September. With that in mind, it probably doesn’t make sense to persevere with something you’re going to lose access to very soon anyway. This might be the time to take one final nostalgic look at the Facebook of old, find the option, and take a bold step into the social media website of the future.
While you’re there, you might finally want to click on the ‘Facebook Watch’ and ‘Facebook Gaming’ tabs now they’ve become far more prominent. It’s what the company has been trying to get you to do for the past twelve months anyway, after all.