Facebook announced today that a major UX redesign of the Facebook website and app was on its way, as well as announcing the release date of the long awaited Oculus Quest wireless headset, but it definitely wasn't a smooth ride.
Facebook F8 Event Showcases Redesigned Site, App, Privacy-Vision
Facebook announced at their F8 event today that the Facebook website and mobile App was getting a major UX overhaul, ditching the ubiquitous blue that it's had since forever, and possibly hoping people will mistake them for Apple.
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The event began with Zuckerberg making his pitch for a vision of social networking built around privacy, brought to you by Facebook. It honestly had the feel of one of the Tech industry's April Fools Day gags that was too cute by half. This was always going to be a hard sell, and Zuckerberg struggled to do that at times.
Around 9:20 in CNet's upload of the keynote to YouTube, Zuckerberg definitely didn't look or sound like the confident millennial tech pioneer of earlier years. He looks more like a leader reacting to crisis rather than being in control and at times there were moments of tone-deafness, like the awkward, one man laugh about their foibles over privacy: "I get that a lot of people aren't sure that we're serious about this. I know, we don't really exactly have the strongest reputation on privacy right now, to put it lightly..."
As awkward as that moment felt, he followed up at 9:57 with "It's going to take time, I'm sure we're going to keep on unearthing old issues for a while, so it may not feel like we're making progress at first, but I think that we've shown time and again as a company that we can do what it takes to evolve and buil the products that people want [emphasis added]." I can't be the only one in the country who heard that and was either immediately worried about what other shoe was about to drop or angry that Zuckerberg still isn't treating people's privacy concerns as something more than just "old issues."
I could go on, but there were actual products that he showed that need to be discussed.
Website and Mobile App Redesigned Around Communities
Codenamed FB5, for the fifth-generation of Facebook, the company has completely redesigned their mobile app, their website, their logo, and essentially their entire brand. The most substantial programatic change they're making is taking the focus off their Newsfeed product and putting it on what they are calling Groups.
Groups are a reworking of their existing groups network on the current version of Facebook, but using the Groups tab, users will be able to find Groups that are easier to get involved in and the Groups tab provides a separate news feed just from those groups, making it easier to connect with other group members rather than have to hunt down their posts in the current hodgepodge that clutters up the main Newsfeed as it is now.
The Mobile App has already gone live and is rebuilt with the new communities theme as the main goal of the redesign. As for the redesign itself, as Zuckerberg says at one point, "the app isn't even blue anymore."
The website will be rolling out later this year, but it shares the same visual style as the app, which is very reminiscent of an Apple product. Not that it's a bad way to go, but it is definitely a major shift for Facebook.
Meanwhile, there's no update on the History Eraser Button that was promised last year.
The Oculus Rift S and The Oculus Dream Get a Release Date and Price
By the end of the presentation, Zuckerberg announced the long-anticipated Oculus Rift S and the Oculus Quest, both taking pre-orders now, with a release date of May 21, priced at $399 each. The Rift S will boast all sorts of improved specs, while the Quest is completely wireless, allowing you to roam a virtual world while bumping into coffee tables in the real one. No judgments, I'm already putting padding on the corners of my desk and tables.
And then it got wierd again. He pulled out his wild card and told everyone in the audience, numbering in the hundreds, that they were all getting a free Oculus Quest. At least a large minority of us watching immediately started saying "You get a Rift! You get a Rift! You get a Rift!" And just when you thought you hit peak awkward, around 38 minutes into CNet's video, a few people could be heard screaming out, "Thank You, Mark!" as soon as the applauds quieted. I wonder if they stood up in order to yell that so their voice would carry. The best seasons of The Office probably couldn't top what it must have been like to be sitting next to one of those guys once the words were out of their mouth and they'd realized what they'd just done.
All in all, its a rocky start to a clean-up after the past two years, but it was always going to be. The problems at Facebook were deeply seeded and long term. The one thing Zuckerberg does understand is that a radical about face was needed for the company and he deserves credit, even when it was awkward, for recognizing that.