Facebook now has 800 million users.  Let that sink in for a minute.  800 MILLION.  Serving 800 million people the right mix of information, important links, photos, and entertainment is not an easy task.  Innovation must continue or risk being “last week’s internet technology” like AOL or MySpace.  But change never comes easy.  Just when we were getting used to the new minor changes, Facebook has set a new standard, renovating the entire newsfeed and much more.  Mark Zuckerberg took the stage this Thursday to lay out an aggressive roadmap for almost-immediate new features that will integrate the free social network even more deeply into the fabric of our lives.

Since Google+ was just released to the public on Tuesday, it seems Facebook felt the need to announce some major competitive development in conjunction with their F8 Conference.  This may end up feeling like a heated tennis match between Google and Facebook, but we’ll have to wait and see how Google reacts.  Remember, Facebook as a five-year jump on Google in terms of lifespan of social networks, but Google has the advantage of having watched others try it and fail (including themselves with products like Google Wave).

 

Without further delay, here are five essential new features that you’ll love (eventually) about the new features from Facebook:

 

1.  NEWSFEED • The newsfeed is now separated into “Top Stories” and “Most Recent.” Facebook had both of these options in a drop down menu on the right hand side before this renovation, so users could choose which style they wanted their news displayed.

Now, Facebook makes the choice for you, although you can always mark posts as more or less important.  The Top Stories are at the top of your feed and the Most Recent just under those.  However, once you’ve been on Facebook for a while, the Top Stories adapt to your behavior and tastes as you mark things “important.”

 

 

2.  THE TICKER The other noteworthy addition is the real-time friend activity updates in the upper right hand corner, known as the “Ticker.” The Ticker functions similarly to Twitter, with a constant flow of comments, likes, and new friendships from your friends.  This feature allows you to see immediately when a friend comments on someone’s picture, likes a wall post, etc.  Think of this as a “light” version of your wall, for quick updates and more information without clicking.

We love the new hover state feature in the Ticker!  Hover your mouse over an item in the Ticker and pop-out dialogue box will appear, that allows you to interact with that post.

 

 

 

3.  LISTS • The new “Lists” feature is now being utilized to level out the playing field between Facebook and Google+, while the new Twitter-esque mini news feed at the top gives Twitter lovers something new to play with.

 

And Facebook isn’t done yet. An even bigger profile renovation is set to roll out within the next few weeks, details of which were discussed at yesterday’s F8 conference. Gizmodo has called the upcoming profile changes a tectonic shift in the overall Facebook layout and design. If you thought this week’s changes were big, just wait ’til what next week has in store.

 

 

4.  TIMELINE • The first and most obvious change will be the Timeline feature. Mark Zuckerberg describes the Timeline as “all the stories, all your apps, a new way to express who you are.”

A page-wide splash photo will now grace the top of your profile (different than your profile picture.) The look takes on a magazine format, with all your activities and information in the same place. A menu on the right hand side also allows you to scroll back through history and check out all the important events from that person’s life (think high school graduation, college graduation, engagement, marriage, etc.) And of course, it’s all highly customizable with the option to pick and choose which events are shared and which are not.

The coolest part about the Timeline feature is the ability to go back before Facebook was even born, and add pictures from your childhood. Now, all of your Facebook friends can see those old pictures from your 10th birthday (as long as you have a scanner.)  The goal is essentially to have your entire life on Facebook for your friends viewing pleasure!

 

5.  SPOTIFY AND APP INTEGRATION • Your music, movies and television will also be incorporated into your Facebook profile with the new updates. Integration with the music service Spotify and Turntable.fm which will turn Facebook into an “entertainment hub.”  Could Facebook be the answer to an all-inclusive information, entertainment, photos, chat, video-conferencing solution for most people?  Probably….

It will be interesting to see how all of these changes are adopted by the Facebook community (one that is known to not take kindly to abrupt changes.)   This is the most drastic redesign Facebook has attempted thus far, and there will most likely be the token group of outraged users who threaten to leave. However, after the initial shock wears off, I think people will like it and realize how it improves their social networking experience.  Users need to be cognizant of the fact that Facebook is a FREE service, and if their interface or security practices offend you, it’s very easy to delete profiles….or just give it a few days to adjust, which is what usually happens.

What do you think is the next big move by Facebook?