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More Sharing through The Stream

March 4, 2009ByJosh Elman

We're excited to announce a preview of our new home page and some upcoming changes to Feed and Feed forms that will transform the ways users share and consume information through Facebook. These enhancements should give you, as Facebook Platform developers, much more effective and consistent distribution for your application or website from the content and actions users actively share from your experience.

Earlier today, we posted our thoughts on the social streams and some new directions we're taking with our Pages product, as well as a preview of our new home page. As we're making these changes, we wanted to give you an overview of how they will affect you as you build applications on Facebook, integrate Facebook Connect into your website, or build applications to support Facebook Pages.

With these changes,you'll want to create great Feed stories from within your application or website to take advantage of the new opportunities. Soon we'll publish a post that goes into more depth on the changes for applications on Facebook Pages.

First, check out the tour of the new home page if you haven't yet.

New Facebook Home Page

With the new profile last year, we introduced new ways for users to share into their Feed and display what they are sharing with new Feed forms and multiple story sizes. The upcoming changes to the home page extend this further and take the News Feed and make it a more dynamic stream of information and content that users are sharing in their own voice.

Stream: The new Stream on the home page will include all posts by a user's friends. This means all posts that users publish through the Publisher or from Feed forms within your application or site will appear directly in the Stream of the users' friends. The Stream will include all stories of the current "short" story size. The Stream will not include one-line stories that are automatically published through APIs, though these will continue to appear on profiles and impact the Highlights section referenced below.

Filters: Filters will allow users to view streams from different lists of friends or from specific applications. By default, several common Facebook applications will be listed as filters. Users can choose additional applications from a drop-down list and add them as permanent filters. The applications that users and their friends frequently use and have multiple stories available for a user to view are most likely to appear in this list. This can be a great way for your application to gain additional visibility and usage.

Publisher: The Publisher on the home page will be an improved version of the current Publisher that appears on user profile pages. All existing Publisher integrations will be supported and will now be available directly from users' home pages. In the new Publisher, the comment will appear above the attachment and is intended to represent what the user is saying about the content they are sharing. This new Publisher will appear on user profiles as well. Please see below for more information about the Publisher size.

Highlights: The Highlights area features content that a users' friends have interacted with. Applications will frequently appear in the highlights area based on how frequently a users' friends are interacting with the app.

Two additional changes you may notice:

  • To create more space on the page for dynamic content, we've consolidated the bookmarks into the bottom bar of the screen with the Applications menu. This has already become the most common way for users to access their applications, and we'll continue working on more ways for users to find and access their applications.
  • The number of outstanding requests will appear at the top of the screen, after "welcome [name]".

Emphasizing What Users Are Sharing

The new Stream is focused on what users are saying and sharing with their friends. As we make these changes, we encourage you to think about the Feed stories from your applications and help focus those around enabling users to share content in their own words.

Feed stories should:

  • Reflect sharing the results of direct user action or content users want to share.
  • Be written in the user's voice (instead of reporting).
  • Include rich content from your application - text, images, video, Flash.

For example, instead of saying "Josh posted a photo" with a description underneath the photo, the story will now include the user comment at the top, and then the body will simply contain the photo and perhaps context about when or where the photo was taken. Or instead of saying "Josh just rated a movie", the user comment can be a short review of the movie or just "5 stars, it was great" and the body would contain an image and description of the movie.

The new Feed form will offer the user a chance to add an additional comment as they publish content to their profile. This will take the existing story title, story body, and media item and attach them to the user's comment when this gets published. Going forward, the new Feed form will only support what is currently the short story size.

We'll introduce some new APIs that will allow you to extend the new Feed forms and Feed publishing to pre-fill and access the comments users make as they are publishing stories. All of your Feed stories will be migratedautomaticallyand work in the new Feed forms. We encourage you to take any user comments in your Feed stories and use those comments to pre-fill the user comment section.

What Should I Do Now?

First off, you don't need to do anything. All of the current APIs and content for creating and publishing Feed stories as well as Publisher integration will continue to work as they do now.

We encourage you to think about using Feed forms and prompting publishing of stories from within your application or website whenever appropriate. Stories published through Feed forms will probably see more distribution than they do today through News Feed since each time a user directly publishes a short story it will automatically appear in their friends' News Feeds. If you are using automatic publishing (feed.publishUserAction) to publish one-line stories, those will continue to appear on users' profiles. And auto-published stories will be used to help aggregate application stories that will appear in the Highlights section of the new home page.

Please note that once these changes go live, the full story size will no longer be supported. You can continue to pass it in, but it will not appear on Facebook profiles or home pages. Also be aware that aggregation of short Feed stories using Feed templates will no longer happen on the home page, so you will not need to continue designing for that model.

If you currently support a Publisher integration, please be aware that the width of the Publisher will be changing and become somewhat narrower. As such, we encourage you to redesign your publisher integration to be "fluid" design instead of a fixed width for more flexibility. Publishers that are fluid layout will appear inline in the experience. Publishers at the older fixed width will appear in a popup when a user selects them. We will offer a way to let you specify when your Publisher supports a fluid layout.

Keep an eye on this blog and the Platform Status Feed for more details. We'd love to hear your feedback on these changes. Please add your comments to our Developer Forum.