It almost seems to be a weekly occurrence now, (although there are some who might suggest that it’s a ‘weakly’ occurrence), but yet again, Facebook is changing! The latest change is reasonably significant, and affects the way in which your profile looks and is managed.

Facebook LogoAt the moment if you log in to Facebook you won’t really see any difference at all. That’s because at the moment the changes are optional. If you want to change your profile to reflect the latest incarnation of Facebook you’ll need to head to http://facebook.com/about/profile to opt in.

However, be aware that this is a one way journey. If you don’t like the new changes then you can’t switch back to the old profile layout – you’re stuck with the new one. In any case, within a few weeks we’ll all be automatically ‘upgraded’ to the new look Facebook. So far, it seems to have caused a ‘Marmite’ effect, with some people praising the new changes, and others lambasting Facebook for missing the ball again and striking out at imaginary markets.

So what are the changes, how do they affect your profile and networking capabilities, why has Facebook introduced these changes, and what are we still missing?

Previously the most obvious aspect of anyone’s Facebook profile was the long list of updates and status messages. This still exists, but it’s been pushed lower down the page. The new look Facebook profile starts off at the top with a lot more information about the person, such as where they are, what they do, their career, education, family, birthday, where they were born and so on.

Underneath this information section are five images – or up to five images. These might be from your own profile, but they may very well be from other people’s profiles if you’ve been tagged. If you’re not sure what this means, basically anyone who has a photograph with you in it can draw a hotspot over you, and link this hotspot to your profile. You can remove these tags (if for example they’re wrong, and it wasn’t you!), but obviously only if you come across them. You can edit these five photographs if you think they don’t accurately reflect you, your profile, your business or your online persona.

The photographs can also be scrolled in what they’re calling an ‘infinite gallery’ (does that sound familiar? Ah yes, Google, who took the idea from Bing..!) so you just keep on scrolling and more and more photos of you appear. Facebook is clearly regarding photographic content as more relevant to people than before, where they could only be viewed by clicking on a separate tab.

A good many people are surprised that Facebook hasn’t taken the opportunity to tweak those rather frustrating problems which have been discussed for a long time, such as the size of the font, and the dull-as-dishwater grey and blue scheme. No changes here, so what is Facebook trying to do with this new upgraded profile layout?

Some cynics are suggesting that the only reason for the change is to keep things stirring, and to keep their 500 programmers busy, but perhaps it’s more than that.

One suggestion is that by pushing an information panel about you near the top of your profile, people will be encouraged to complete this, adding more information. More information means more power to Facebook – a good enough argument for a change on its own many would say.

But perhaps Facebook is looking at the online profile in a way which more accurately reflects the way in which we network in real life. We tend to exchange information with people such as our name, where we come from, what we do and where we went to school or university, rather than exchanging introducing ourselves to new clients by showing them a transcript of a conversation we had with someone else. But then again, we don’t tend to push our photo album at people either, so this still seems a bit mixed.

It’s certainly not likely to be the last change we see from Facebook, although it seems that very few of the changes which we’ve already experienced have been in response to what people have actually asked for. It still seems a very much programmer-led project, rather than user-led, which may be the biggest challenge still facing Facebook, short of beating Google into the ground for good.