Facebook's latest makeover shines spotlight on groups
Your eyes aren't deceiving you. The Facebook app on your smartphone will start to look different.
On Tuesday, Facebook said it's redesigning its app to make it easier for users to find and join groups on the world's largest social network. A Facebook group is a place where people who share a common interest gather to chat. Facebook has tens of millions of active groups on the site about a variety of topics including politics, health, gaming and animal rescue.
"We've seen just a variety of these communities emerge and become really meaningful to people," Fidji Simo, head of the Facebook app, said in an interview. "We are now really preaching communities as the center of the app in addition to friends and family."
The redesign of the Facebook app on Android devices and iPhones has already started, but is happening in stages and will continue over the coming months, according to Facebook.
Facebook executives made the announcement during F8, the social network's two-day developers conference that kicked off Tuesday in San Jose, California.
The social network has been embroiled in a series of scandals since 2016, raising concerns that it's doing more to divide people rather than bring them together. Facebook's focus on groups showcases how the tech giant is trying to fulfill its mission to "give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together."
But Facebook groups haven't been immune from controversy. In March, Facebook said it wouldn't recommend groups that spread misinformation about vaccines, which might have contributed to an outbreak of measles in the US. The company said it would also rank anti-vax groups lower in the News Feed and search results following criticism from lawmakers, activists and health experts. Users opposed to vaccines used Facebook to spread misinformation in groups where members have to be approved, making it difficult for the social network to police the content.
As more people join groups that aren't public, the social network will have to balance concerns about both safety and privacy. Users are sharing some of their deepest fears and secrets in groups about drug addiction, infidelity, diseases and other sensitive topics. Facebook has "closed" and "secret" groups where content is only visible to current members. If you're in a "secret" group, only current members can find the group by searching on Facebook.
Simo said Facebook is taking privacy and safety "very seriously," pointing to tools the social network gives administrators to moderate the content in groups. At F8, the company also unveiled a new feature so members can ask health support group administrators to post on their behalf, allowing users to mask their identity.
"We've seen a lot of people who want more information," she said, "but don't want to necessarily be the ones asking."
Finding new groups
Facebook's redesigned app includes a new logo and more white space. The company also replaced the blue search bar with a black-and-gray icon of a magnifying glass. Facebook is promoting groups by displaying a photo of people gathered at a table with a button that says "Find Your Groups" in the News Feed.
When you post on Facebook, there will also be an option to share in groups that you joined.
The company's website also got a makeover but the changes won't take effect until the next few months.
Facebook already has a tab for groups, which is represented by an icon of three figures. Currently, when you click on it, you see a search bar for groups, a section for your groups and latest updates, which shows posts from those groups.
The redesigned Groups tab includes a new icon at the top called "Discover" that allows you to pick topics such as travel, arts and entertainment, and food and drink and see suggestions for groups.
Suggestions for groups will also pop up in Facebook's gaming tab, its video hub Watch, and Marketplace where users can buy and sell items like furniture and clothes.
Facebook is also rolling out new features for certain types of groups including those used for gaming and to post job openings.
Employers who post in job groups will see a template to create a job that includes sections such as contact options, job title, location, job type and job description. Instead of clicking on a link for a job, Facebook will let job seekers apply directly on the social network.
Members of gaming groups will be able to create threads to chat about specific topics such as tips and tricks and introductions.
In groups used to buy and sell things, Facebook said it's also exploring a way to allow users to place an order when the seller is talking about the product during a live video.
"We really recognize that different communities have different needs," Simo said.