- Facebook is getting a major redesign.
- The social network has ditched its iconic red bar and now looks more similar to Messenger and Instagram.
- Stories are now front-and-centre on the platform, and Groups are being emphasised as well.
- The social network is trying to move past its two years of relentless scandals.
Facebook is getting one of the biggest facelifts in its 15-year history.
On Tuesday, the California-based tech giant announced a sweeping redesign of the social network -- ditching its iconic blue menu bar and replacing it with a cleaner, white design, and placing greater-than-ever emphasis on groups.
The changes come as Facebook tries to move past two years of constant scandals, from the social network's role in spreading hate speech that fueled genocide in Myanmar to Cambridge Analytica's misappropriation of tens of millions of users' data.
The new look was formally unveiled at F8, Facebook's annual developer conference in San Jose, California, and gives the social network an appearance that more closely resembles Messenger, Facebook's sister app for messaging. The clean lines and ample white space of Facebook's new look also echo that of photo-sharing app Instagram.
The new Facebook design also gives Stories -- the buzzy ephemeral-photo-sharing format -- prominent placement at the very top of users' feeds.
There are also significant structural changes that place greater emphasis on user-created groups. Users can post to groups directly from the homepage, groups are given greater prominence on the left-hand sidebar (on desktop), and new tools are being added to specialized types of groups.
The redesigned mobile app will launch "right away," a Facebook spokesperson said in an emailed announcement, while it'll roll out more slowly on desktop -- "in the next few months."
Facebook is betting big on groups
Facebook's design has undergone countless revisions and changes throughout its history, often provoking temporary outrage by perturbed users. Tuesday's redesign is a far more aesthetically significant shift than normal, however, finally ditching the blue bar that, in one form or another, has identified the social network since 2004.
And it arrives as Facebook tries to convince its users it has evolved and learned from previous scandals -- that the company now takes a "broader view of our responsibility," as CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said endlessly over the last year or so.
The visual tweaks alone don't solve the underlying problems that have plagued Facebook: the news feed's propensity to spread fake news and malicious hoaxes, a move-fast-break-things culture that has resulted in mishandled user data, concerns about monopoly power, and so on.
However, the increased focus on Groups reflect a change in emphasis for the social network away from being a source for news and towards supporting communities -- which it views groups as a prime driver of.
On desktop, all users will have a Groups tab added to the top of their Facebook homepage (on the mobile app, where there's less space, these tabs change based on what Facebook features users utilize the most).
And the tab itself has undergone a redesign, showing the various groups a user is part of and posts from within them.
Groups themselves are getting some changes to account for increasingly specialised uses. Members of Health Support groups, for example, can ask group admins "to post on their behalf in order to protect their privacy around sensitive topics," in an apparent attempt to stop people disclosing sensitive medical data openly on Facebook. Templates are being create for employers to post job adverts in job groups.
Facebook is tweaking other parts of its core app too
Facebook is also adding a suite of other new features across the core Facebook app.
It is introducing a new feature called "Meet New Friends," which acts as a kind of platonic match-making service -- letting users message strangers from groups or companies they're part of or who share common interest.
And Facebook Dating, its Tinder rival, is adding a "Secret Crush" feature that lets users know if they and an existing friend harbor hidden feelings for each other, without exposing them if it's unrequited. The dating tool is launching in 14 new countries -- though still not the US.
Facebook is also rolling out new tools to help users buy and sell things through Marketplace, the app's user-to-user shopping hub. Users will be able to make payments directly on Marketplace, and handle shipping directly through the social network.
Collectively, this redesign and new feature roll-out marks a significant change from Facebook's 2018 developer conference. Last year, reeling from scandals, much of Facebook's F8 felt like damage control -- with significant announcements for the core app largely lacking.
2019's bonanza of alterations suggests that Facebook believes it has stemmed the bleeding, and is ready to start shaking things up again.