Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg offered a defense of the company's new redesign, soon after its new features were launched.
Although the first polls concerning the redesign have been generally negative, the reaction was essentially anticipated. That's because Facebook executives were asked - twice - at a press conference on Thursday following Zuckerberg's announcement of the new Timeline layout of the company's user pages. The new changes had been announced just moments before, and were barely live.
(Jill Duffy's story, 10 Things You Should Know About Facebook Timeline offers a more in-depth examination of what those changes are and what they'll look like.)
At the press conference, reporters asked Facebook executives to address the number of users who would inevitably turn up their noses at the new changes. Zuckerberg appeared at the conference midway through, and fielded the second question at the end of the session. He gently chided those among Facebook's 800 million users who had criticized the service without using it.
"The recent update with the news feed and ticker, we've actually been testing that with people for months… we brought a lot of people into the office, to get their feedback," Zuckerberg said.
"With the new apps, none of the new functionality is going to be added until you choose you want to add the reading app or the cooking app or the running app," Zuckerberg added. "Everyone's going to have complete control of how they're [using it]. With Timeline, we're working on smoothing out the rough edges. We launched the beta just now. People just signed up for that.
"But we're definitely going to get a lot of feedback in the coming weeks, and before we roll it out," Zuckerberg addeed. "For sure, they'll be feedback. So we definitely listen and we try to get feedback…from people who are actually engaging with the service. But also at the same time, the service is just moving quickly, and we want to be innovative and keep on building new things. And we want to refresh old versions and roll out new versions of things."
The new Timelines replace the concept of the traditional Wall and Profile; those terms won't be used by Facebook going forward. And although users can opt out of the new layout going forward, eventually they'll be forced to switch to Timelines, if for no other reason other than Facebook won't be able to manage the two versions.
In both his keynote and in other sessions, Facebook executives also made it clear that users will be able to maintain granular privacy settings for each piece of content, essentially showing different Timelines to different groups of users.
The upcoming "Smart Lists" feature is also expected to help smooth that process, a source at Facebook said.
The rollout of Timelines is expected to proceed "really slowly," executives said, primarily so that users can provide feedback and features can be tweaked and altered. "This is really a big step forward," chief technical officer Bret Taylor said.
As for one addition that users have asked for - an iPad app - don't hold your breath.
"I think it's going to be something that we're going to want to do," Zuckerberg told USA Today. "But right now a lot of people have a great experience just using the web on it. I mean one of the best parts of the iPad is that it has a beautiful web browser."
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