There have been some changes to Facebook’s
flagship app and desktop site this week with a major redesign of the style and
This is because the world’s largest social network now wants to encourage its users to communicate in groups rather than individual public posts in a bid to shift towards a “privacy-focused” future.
The design changes will push people toward smaller group conversations and real-world meetups — and away from public posts.
Speaking at the annual Facebook F8 developers’ conference in San Jose, California, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said the revamp was the most significant change made at the social network in the past five years.
He told delegates: “Over time I believe that a private social platform will be even more important in our lives than our digital town squares. So today we’re going to talk about what this could look like as a product, what it means to have the centre of your social experience be more private, [and] how we need to change the way we run this company in order to build this.”
The irony wasn’t lost on the world’s media. Facebook has spent years persuading people to share their every thought with the world and was now explaining how the company was going to help people keep that same information under wraps.
This is at a time when the social networking giant now faces more than a dozen international investigations into its history of privacy violations, from data sharing to several recent data breaches.
A whole host of changes were unveiled at the conference. The most significant was the redesign that places more emphasis on groups.
There’s now a Groups tab at the centre of the app. Content from Groups will appear more often in News Feed, and Facebook will give users more prompts to discover and join new Groups.
The company is also adding new features for specific types of communities. Groups related to health for example will ask administrators to post on their behalf, to protect their privacy.
Eventually, Facebook also hopes to integrate WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram messages into a single product with end-to-end encryption. However, this may not happen for a few years yet.
There have already been significant changes to Messenger, which has been rewritten from scratch, with new mobile and desktop apps and a “friends” tab that brings Instagram stories and Facebook posts into the app.
Many of the product announcements by Facebook at the conference focused on the ability to carry out secure financial transactions.
There have been some attempts in recent years by web giants to look at the issue of privacy.
Last year, Mozilla launched a new tool to help keep Facebook from tracking your browsing across the web.
It had been working on the technology for several years already, but brought the launch date forward response to what it called a “growing demand for tools that help manage privacy and security,”
The Facebook Container add-on for Firefox promised to make it “much harder” for Facebook to track you when you’re not on its site.
The deeply personal information targeted by advertisers and gathered from billions of people is crucial to Facebook’s business. Time will only tell if these new changes made by Facebook will make any real difference.