Facebook Rolls Out New Lightbox View

Facebook's New Lightbox View
Facebook’s New Lightbox View

Google+ Lightbox View
Google+’s Lightbox View

Today for the first time I noticed that Facebook has rolled out a new lightbox view for photos. There were rumors of a new Facebook Lightbox view coming already out in the wild, but this was the first time that I saw it myself.

At first blush it looks like quite a bit of it was copied from inspired by Google Photos. Remember Vincent Mo, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. ;)

The biggest change is that that comments on Facebook photos have been moved over to the right. Also it’s interesting to me that they seem to have dropped adverts on photos that have enough comments to require scrolling. This probably makes sense as it’s a way to reward high value (i.e. highly commented) photos on Facebook and below the fold adverts (where the adverts go under the comments) probably wouldn’t fetch as much as above the fold adverts anyways.

Also now, when you hover over the photo it gives you the opportunity to “like” or “tag” the photo. This is in addition to the options already to like and tag the photo that are to the right of the photo and always showing. Facebook really must want to drive “likes” and “tags” to their photos, which does actually make a lot of sense as increasing social activity on photos will drive engagement.

Simply clicking off the photo to the empty space around the photo or pressing the escape key will bring you back to the regular page you came from.

Personally I like the new lightbox view by Facebook. It’s better than the old Facebook lightbox. It’s still not as good as Google+’s which still has a larger photo — but along with the new much larger photo thumbnails in the timeline view, it’s a step in the right direction. It also tells me that Facebook has probably noticed the success that Google+ has had with photographers and is looking to try and find ways to make Facebook more attractive to the photography crowd. Facebook’s photos have come a long way since pre-Google+. Back then photo thumbnails were ensy weeny — the size of a postage stamp.

If I were Facebook I’d still make the lightbox view much larger though (like Google+). When it comes to a photo in lightbox view, bigger is definitely better.

Facebook also still needs to give us a way to crop photos in the Timeline view. Right now the imposed square crop doesn’t always best show your photo and the “resize” feature (press the star above your photo in timeline view) weirdly crops just the top half of the photo. Facebook already does have a cropping tool that you can use for your main cover photo in timeline view, so I’d think (and I hear) that better cropping ought to be coming for timeline photos at some point.

What do you think? Do you like the new Facebook lightbox for photos? And which do you think looks better, Facebook’s or Google+’s? Any other thoughts on today’s new Facebook lightbox design?

Update:

Comments on the new change from Facebook users.

Comments on the new change from Google+ users.

Update: Mike Schroepfer from Facebook comments in the comments below: “Thomas and everyone else – thanks for the feedback.

We experimented with blacking out the entire background. However, we found that may people were confused about how to navigate back from the viewer. The semi-opaque black background tries to strike a balance between having great contrast in the photo and giving people an easy way to click out/get back to FB as they need. Either way I think it is a huge improvement from having a white background.

If you have any other comments or suggestions I’d love to hear them.”

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13 Comments

  1. Ed King says:

    I have to say although I am hooked on G+ I agree there are some good changes, I just personally like the way I have connected with so many people including other photographers that I never was able to on Facebook. The communication among circles is so much better than fans and people are more likely to circle than accept another friend. I still use both since I have many fans who are not photographers on facebook including friends and family.

  2. kiwi says:

    The new Facebook lightbox looks so cheap compared to the slick, professional looking Google lightbox. It really does look like it was thrown together overnight as an afterthought (which it probably was). I only wish Google+ would hurry up with their full screen slideshow feature which is available on Picasa.

  3. PapaJoe says:

    Nope, I actually like it less that the way it just was. The way they have it now, it is very distracting seeing your page dimmed in the background. It’s not even close to what G+ has which blacks it all out and “features” the photo.

    They are running a bit scared though of how well G+ is doing with their photo presentation, that is obvious.

  4. The only thing I like more about the FB Lightbox is the ability to click off the image, to go back to the regular view. Otherwise this is just another attempt by FB to play catch-up.

    Where are the other improvements to their system? Forced system changes, that are unwanted by millions, un-friendly policies that discourage users from being active. I haven’t posted images for years. G+ is miles ahead in seven months, vs. eight years for FB.

  5. Linh says:

    I’m curious as to all the folks who love the g+ lightbox, does the stark contrasting comments not bother you? I find it very distracting and taking a lot from the pictures. If they would just default to no comments, I think it’d be almost perfect.

    I do like that with facebook, you can click anywhere outside the pic to go back. Would love to see that over on g+ as well.

  6. Great comparisons and article on it. I left a comment on fb saying how I liked the improvements as do you. But I also noticed that when i view your photo, I get the full sized image, basically the same size as Google+. This is not a spam link but shows a screenshot of your photo full size on facebook. http://cl.ly/092f1W3O2Y3o1x0I3j0w

    Just figured you might be interested to see it big. Maybe they are still rolling the size changes out?

  7. PapaJoe says:

    Don McCaskill says: “The only thing I like more about the FB Lightbox is the ability to click off the image, to go back to the regular view.”

    You can technically click off the picture “above it” without having to go click on the “x” to close it out. The main thing is though that in G+ you get the full area blacked out which is more conducive to a better/cleaner presentation of the photo. Whereas when you see it in FB, it is a smaller image (which allows for more room to click off of it) and you can still see the background of your page somewhat which to me is VERY distracting and takes away from the presentation of the image. Also you can click the “white sidebar” comments off which in turn allows more space for your photo should it happen to be a landscape image that can expand more.

  8. Thomas Hawk says:

    Toby, that’s really interesting. hmmmmmm.. No clue why it’s showing full size for you. I wonder if it’s a browser setting or some other weird thing or if maybe they are just experimenting with different versions for different people.

  9. NYC Shooter says:

    “Inspired by” ?
    LOL, you had it right before the correction Thomas. It was RIPPED by FB from G+. No doubt, doesn’t take a genius to see that.

    “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”
    Yes, but when you’re multi-billion dollar company, can’t you come up with your own lightbox? Signs of desperation and catch-up as others have noted.

    Also, I can’t help but wonder if the intrusive ads have something to do with their IPO. To me it’s so distracting that it takes away from the user experience. Facebook reminds me of AOL and MySpace. If they continue on this trajectory, I think many users won’t be as active (like me). I’ve already started to move my photography to G+ and will use FB for occasional chats with friends and family.

    Great shooting Thomas, I’ve always enjoyed seeing your work.

  10. I have used facebook for a few years, before I was invited to Google+
    In truth from my personal perceptive and experiences F.B can come out with all sorts of gadgets and gizmo’s to “improve” their network, however the real reason I stick with Google+ is because of the people and community I have found, that truly interact with me. Something F.B can’t reproduce. By saying interact with me I mean we have conversations on a deeper level than this following example “I just had a peanut jelly bun for lunch”

  11. Cedric says:

    G+ lightbox is better without doubt but on my FB, photos that I’ve uploaded in HD fill my screen much like G+ though the comment box on the right is bigger. I also agree with other comments that the black background in G+ is better but that the ability to return to the main page with a click anywhere away from the picture is useful.

  12. Mike Schroepfer says:

    Thomas and everyone else – thanks for the feedback.

    We experimented with blacking out the entire background. However, we found that may people were confused about how to navigate back from the viewer. The semi-opaque black background tries to strike a balance between having great contrast in the photo and giving people an easy way to click out/get back to FB as they need. Either way I think it is a huge improvement from having a white background.

    If you have any other comments or suggestions I’d love to hear them.

  13. Citysnaps says:

    >>> If you have any other comments or suggestions I’d love to hear them.

    There’s a lot of discussion about this on FB. Serious photographers seem to hate it. There’s little to no breathing room around photos in lightbox view. Also the relatively huge (30+ % of the area) bright white info box butting right onto the right edge of your photo is is incredibly distracting – your eye goes there right away and overpowers the image.

    I would recommend:

    1) But a lot of black space around photos so edges don’t go right into the main page.

    2) Make the info box on the right less white. Maybe 30% black. So it’s not as distracting.

    A few people have tried adding thick black borders to to their photos before posting. Even a much larger black border on the right side so the bright white info box stays further away. But the problem with that is photos look weird as thumbnails on wall pages.

    Overall lightbox view is a good idea, but the aesthetics have not been well thought out. So much so that there are loads of complaints from photographers who take their images and how they are displayed, seriously