Facebook is currently in the process of rolling out a new and improved photos page for users. I’ve been part of a beta group testing out this new page over the last week and I have to say that the new photos layout is a huge step forward for photos on Facebook.
It is inevitable that the new page will be compared to Google+’s photos page and while there are similarities there as also some differences as well.
Like Google+, on your photos page, as well as on the photo page of your friends, you can hover over any thumbnail and like or comment on a photo with a single click without ever leaving the page. This allows you to like many more photos in one place at once than you could previously do. This new hover and like/fave/+1 functionality is a major lubricant for social activity on photos.
Although it may feel like Facebook copied G+ here, if my memory serves correct, it was Flickr who first introduced this hover/fave action for us in their “photos from your contacts” page. So maybe Facebook and G+ are both actually copying Flickr here more than anything. One small cosmetic difference between Facebook and Google+ here is that on G+, the +1/comment stats are light gray that light up when you hover to interact. On Facebook the stat information is gone completely unless you hover and then it appears for you to interact with.
One nice hover tool that Facebook also introduces us to here is the ability to remove yourself from a photo directly from the hover action. I’ve never quite understood why people feel the need to tag me in photos that I am not in on G+/Flickr/Facebook, but when they do I usually just delete the tag and block them. It’s nice to be able to more easily do this now with the new photos page on Facebook.
In the past, Facebook’s photos page had a very stale 4×3 small thumbnail format. You had to actually click through to your “Wall Photos” as a separate album to even get to these. The smallish thumbnails were all the exact same size. There was too much white space around the thumbnails.
With the new Facebook photos page Facebook has recropped all of your photos as square photos. While some photographers dislike the squaring of photos on the web, I actually love the square. It’s my favorite crop of all and I think it works well from a design standpoint in showing off the photos. G+’s photos page, btw, uses more of a justified mosiac page that retains a photographer’s original crop and squeezes them all together to fit on a page. I love the justified/mosaic view as well — in fact, I have a hard time deciding whether I like the square or mosaic layout format the most, I just love them both so much.
One of my favorite new features about the new Facebook photos page (that G+ doesn’t have yet) is that it gives you the ability to make some photos bigger than others. Facebook’s new square thumbnails themselves are bigger now than the old 4×3 thumbnails and with less white space on the page, but even better, you can now choose to highlight favorite photos turning them into even larger oversized timeline sized squares.
One area where I think that this new manual resizing and highlighting of photos is going to be huge is in the “Photos of You” section. Let’s face it. You’re so vain. I bet you think this blog post is about you, don’t you? Giving people the ability to highlight the photos of themselves that they look the best in will be irresistible to many.
Whether the new Facebook photos page is “inspired” by Google+ or Flickr or not, I think it’s great to see the continued evolution of photo presentation on the social web. In general our photos are getting larger, better looking and easier to engage with. This is wonderful.
One negative about the new Facebook photos page is that like the old photos page it still comes with ads on the right side of the page (unlike G+’s page which is advertising free). I cropped these advertisements out of my screenshots because, well, they don’t look very elegant. Obviously Facebook counts on this advertising revenue to keep the lights on and I can’t begrudge them for running advertisements next to my photos as their service is free, but it still detracts from the aesthetic experience in my opinion. I’m not sure what the answer here is. Would I pay $25/year for an ad-free version of Facebook like I do with Flickr? I think I would.