Facebook users unite in outrage over changed layout

Some don't like it when others clean out their houses while they're gone on vacation, and a few might hate it when someone else cleans up. Facebook is now cleaner, brighter, and whiter, and tens of thousands are unhappy.

Nearly 140,000 Facebook accounts have been entered into a group in support of an online petition opposing, for one reason or another, the service's new Web site layout unveiled late last month. And that's just one group; another, entitled "People Against the New Facebook System," has garnered close to 33,000 accounts; and another, "The New Facebook Layout Sucks," gathering nearly 8,000 as of Tuesday afternoon.

Not all accounts represent individuals who are necessarily opposed to Facebook's new look, as evidenced by some message threads in these groups launched by defenders of the layout. And a sizable amount of traffic on these groups actually consists of invitations to join teams in an online game of Mob Wars.

But complaints certainly outnumber supporters there by, pun intended, a wide margin. Many of these complaints register active and sometimes vehement opposition to the abundance of white space; and some have already begun segmenting users into "pro-new-Facebooker" and "anti-new-Facebooker" classes, complete with subclasses and categories.

Amid the spontaneously generated class warfare and pre-scheduled Mafia hits, there have been some intelligent discussions, including reaction from one lady named Laurie who responded to comments saying that the new look simply takes some getting used to.

"The problem with these arguments is that they don't take into consideration the fact that the new system can only be fully understood and appreciated if you've been acquainted with the old system," Laurie wrote. "For brand new Facebook users, such as my parents who just joined, the new system is extremely non user-friendly and downright confusing. For example, my mom was trying to figure out what the difference was between a note and a wall posting. No wonder she couldn't figure it out, because once completing both a wall posting and a note, they both appeared in the same spot - on the mini-feed! For us veteran Facebookers, we understand the difference between the two, only because we know the old system and are familiar with terms like 'wall' and 'note.' I can see why my mom couldn't get the difference - because they both landed in the same location, giving her very little to distinguish the difference."

In defense of white space and applications' rearrangement, one user named Jonathan launched a thread entitled, "Why the New Look is Good!", where he writes, "With the redesign, it also appears as if Facebook has remembered its primary purpose, to be the best social networking site in the world."

"The next major aspect influenced is usability, which has remained constant, throughout the changes. Everything still takes about the same time to accomplish, messages, wall posts, etc. It may take a series of different steps, but the number of steps is relatively the same, perhaps one could argue that its now more intuitive, although it really comes down to taste. Facebook has also gotten rid of the left sidebar and placed on the profile something much more important in that space, you. Our eyes are trained to study left to right, up to down, so now your profile picture is in the upper-left corner, putting the attention on you, not your applications, a really nice touch."

During an earlier redesign effort in September 2006 in which outgoing RSS feeds were added to users' pages, complaints about privacy issues drew more than 700,000 accounts into a Facebook group calling for a privacy re-evaluation. But this latest effort to muster opposition appears centered more on a certain lack of adherence to feng shui. As one member named Scott (no relation) enumerates, among the Top 10 biggest problems with the new layout are the facts that it's messy (#5), incompatible (#2), lacking personality (#7), boring (#9), and too similar to MySpace (#8).

Meanwhile, a Facebook group gathering supporters of aid to Darfur gathered 572 members as of Tuesday afternoon; the Hurricane Katrina Relief Foundation signed up all of 1,377 Facebook members at last check; and a gathering of members aiding victims of the recent earthquake in Sichuan Province, China, counts 387 members.

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