Facebook changes: Fact and fiction

Facebook has made a lot of modifications to its network and is planning a lot more. But, as often happens when the social network makes major changes, users are confused about what is and isn’t changing. Here’s a breakdown of what’s new, what’s in the cards, and a couple of busted myths:

News feed and ticker: The News Feed is now more curated, with stories that Facebook deems relevant pinned to the top, recent stories of import further down the page and all the “Julie commented on John’s post” or “John just earned the blue ribbon in Farmville” updates relegated to a real-time feed that runs along the right side of your homepage. Users will also be able to do more than “like” things on their news feeds and friends’ walls. Developers will have all verbs and nouns to choose from in the future. Now you theoretically could do anything from the fairly basic (watch a movie) to the off-beat(high-five a kitten?) through the network.

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The Timeline: Pretty much everything Facebook users see and do will change in some way. Your profile, for example, is going to become a personal history, scrapbook, autobiography and news center.

Called the Timeline, the new profile will likely encourage people to put up content that predates their time on the social network. You’ll be able to guide visitors to your profile through your life via an actual timeline on the right side of the page, so they can quickly click to the days of your misspent youth or just see what you’ve been up to since you got your last job. The further back you go, the more content Facebook will hide from the main timeline.

Apps: Users also will be able to add apps that publish content to users’ Timelines automatically. Right now, apps ask users if they want to publish information to their wall before each post, such as when a user reaches a new milestone in a game. Now, Facebook will publish stories with a single permission agreement — for example, users using Spotify will agree to hook their account to the service once, and it will post to their walls every time a track changes.

Some apps, such as The Washington Post’s Social Reader, or Hulu will let you consume news and media content right from Facebook and tell your friends what items you’re reading, watching, or listening.

Is Facebook going to charge a fee?: No. Facebook isn’t going to charge a fee and likely never will. Restating what the company has said since it began, a post to the company’s main page definitively denied the rumor, saying: “We have no plans to charge for Facebook. It's free and always will be.”

Likes and comments: Another viral status that’s been going around is the assertion that users have no control over the sharing settings for their own likes and comments.

“Please do me a favor. Hover your cursor over my name here, wait for the box to load and then hover over the "Subscribed" link. Then uncheck the ‘Comments and likes’ choice”...Then repost if you don't want your EVERY MOVE posted on the right column for everyone to see,” the statuses read.”

Likes and comments on Facebook posts are tied to the privacy of the original post, according to Facebook’s settings. So while it’s true that unsubscribing from someone’s “comments and likes” will keep those posts from showing up in your ticker, users should know that the privacy of those actions is dependent on the root post.

(Washington Post Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Donald E. Graham is a member of Facebook’s board of directors.)

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