Late last night, Facebook did something that Facebook is really good at doing: they rolled out yet another round of changes to the layout of their site.  So, kind of like a brief thunderstorm that strikes in the middle of the night, no one really knew anything happened … until they logged in thisNew Facebook Homepage Layout morning and found a whole new landscape ready to greet them.  While I leave it up to others to pass judgement on the new layout (and judging by this Facebook blog post’s comments, there are plenty that don’t like it!), I do want to give a quick tour of a few items in the new layout to help you find what’s where.

1. The “Recent Stories” Stream (aka the “News Feed”)
This is the main area that most users likely go to for the latest in status updates and more.  Facebook has re-branded this as “Recent Stories” to give it more of a newspaper/news stream-like feel.  The one twist is the addition of a “Top Stories” mark on some of the items in your feed.  From what I can tell, the intent here is to show you the most popular/most relevant stories from your feed since the last time you logged on.  If you find that a story is not truly a “top story” (based on your own definition), simply click the blue marker and it will be removed as a top story.  Apparently, Facebook has put their algorithm to work to “learn” what you consider should be a top story and it will get better over time.  Maybe, maybe not.  We’ll have to see about that one.

2. The Live Ticker
On the right-hand side of the screen, you’ll notice a running ticker of update snippets from your friends.  This is supposed to be a live feed of what’s being posted right now.  If you hover over an update, the update expands and you can comment, like or share the post, depending on whether or not you’re connected to that person.  If you have a lot of friends in your stream, expect this area to update fairly rapidly (kind of like a Twitter stream).

3. Smart Lists
One of the understated changes in the new layout is Smart Lists.  It is generally agreed that this is a direct response to “Circles” on Google Plus.  On G+, you can organize your friends into circles and then choose who you wanted to share content with.  That’s helpful if you have that goofy photo from 7th grade that you don’t want co-workers seeing!  Facebook has had “lists” as a feature in the past, but now they are making them “smart” (insert your own commentary here!).  The “smart” aspect is that Facebook has automatically placed people on your lists for you, thus relieving you of some of the work.  One of the issues I’ve noticed this morning is with managing the smart list feature.  Facebook’s “manage” box seems to be hanging up (perhaps there’s a lot of activity with that feature today!).  We’ll see if that gets corrected in the next day or so.  To learn more about lists, check out this post from

4. The “Share” Button
Lastly, in your options below an item in the feed, you’ll notice a “share” link.  This makes it easy for you to quickly post to your wall something you find interesting from a friend. I believe this will be one of the more popular changes introduced because it is a fairly common feature on other social networks.

Other Changes
There are several other smaller changes that have been introduced.  I recommend this blog post from Mashable to take a look at more of those changes.  Also, be on the lookout for a few additional updates/new rollouts as Facebook is conducting its F8 developer’s conference starting tomorrow.

Conclusion
Clearly, the new layout will take some time to understand.  And, contrary to what many users may want, going back to the old layout isn’t an option.  Facebook is usually pretty clear about cutting the cord on an old design and moving ahead, whether their audience likes it or not.  My suggestion: spend a little time with it and give it a serious go.  Most changes in the digital world catch us cold at first, but once we’ve had some time, we ultimately come around to them.  And, if you seriously don’t like it, you now have another option: convince your friends to join you on Google Plus and start hanging out, posting and circling over there!

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