In the wake of an aesthetic overhaul and substantial expansion, facebook.com has more changes in store for its four million users, including expanded personal photo pages and a possible blog-like feature.
Facebookers across the country will soon be able to upload dozens of photos to their personal pages, a feature already available on popular social networking sites like myspace.com and friendster.com. Spokesman Chris R. Hughes ’06 promised “more photos than any other comparable site.”
He also said the new feature would be different from Wirehog, a file-sharing program introduced last year on thefacebook.com.
“Wirehog was always a separate company,” he said. “I think it’s still up and functional but I don’t think it’s widely used.”
Hughes also said facebook.com was “playing around with an alternative to blogging.” He declined to elaborate on this potential feature because it has not yet been finalized, he said.
Three weeks ago, the site underwent a number of changes, starting with its name. The definite article was dropped—turning thefacebook.com into facebook.com.
In addition, designers made a number of aesthetic alterations, which included jettisoning the blue lines that compartmentalized user profiles, reducing the size of the banner heading and logo, reconfiguring the message and comment space known as the “wall,” and enhancing the site’s quick-search feature so that a user’s friends appear first in any group of search results.
“The general idea was that we wanted the site to be more aesthetically pleasing, cleaner, and a bit more logical,” Hughes said. “It was just time to tighten up the look of it all.”
Hughes said that the feedback has been positive overall, but that “some people are frustrated with the new way we are doing the wall.”
“I personally prefer the older visual design,” Kyle J. Foreman ’08, a student randomly selected using facebook.com’s Social Net feature, wrote in an e-mail. “But since they didn’t clutter up the layout or interface of the site I’m not complaining. Google and eBay have shown that some of the most useful sites don’t have to have a lot of glitz.”
Facebook.com made a bigger splash two weeks ago when it unveiled a high-school version of the site, hs.facebook.com, racking up 88 new high-school users in the first 10 minutes after it went live.
“High school and college are pretty different,” Hughes said. “But there’s a pretty key factor they share—they’re educational institutions around which students’ lives are built. The structural similarity made it the logical next step.”
After two weeks, the high-school site has attracted approximately 100,000 users, a fairly high figure considering that, at this point, high schoolers must be invited to join the site by current college students.
“The reaction has been pretty good,” Hughes said. “We’ve had a lot people sign up and that’s the most important feedback. Still, there are some college kids who are pissed and want to keep the network to themselves.”
The next facebook.com change this month will be the site’s final round of nationwide expansion.
In July 2004, Hughes told Business Week Online that .com hoped to expand to 100 schools by last fall. Today, the site has more 3.8 million registered college-affiliated users from 1,531 different North American colleges. Hughes said the site will include every college in the United States, totalling more than 2,000, by this coming Monday.
Last May, the venture-capital firm Accel Partners announced it would invest $13 million in .com. Founder and CEO Mark E. Zuckerberg ’06-’08 said at the time that the influx of money would allow the site to improve the display of advertisements and add new features.
But even as the site continues to expand to millions of students across the country, Hughes said the company has not forgotten its modest beginnings.
“Harvard kids, better than anyone else, know that facebook used to be a dinky little site for one college,” Hughes said. “But it’s huge at this point. It’s a very real business with lots of employees. Mark went from being a Harvard student programming in his dorm room to CEO of a multimillion-dollar corporation.”
Internally, the recent redesign was deemed Operation Quail, apparently inspired by a quail hunting scene in the recent movie “Wedding Crashers.”
“Our whole culture is about being funny and creative,” Hughes said.
—Staff writer Sam Teller can be reached at email@example.com.