Facebook began to unveil this week an updated photo interface that allows users to browse through albums more easily. The company initially announced the change in look and functionality on February 10 via Twitter, and it will take a “few weeks” to reach all of Facebook’s 500 million users.
The update includes a number of alterations. Rather than load a separate page for each photograph, the new photo viewer opens in a lightbox over the page when a photo is selected. Arrows on either side of the picture let users scroll through all the photos in that particular album. This includes photos posted to the Wall, so don’t be surprised when a black-grey box pops up when you click on a picture posted to a friend’s stream.
A “like” and “comment” button sit to the bottom right of the photo box, and the comment box sits directly beneath the photo. There, buttons allow users to tag, share and download the photo. (Or “report” it, if you’re one of those guys.)
From what we can tell so far, the lightbox functions well, and does make browsing through albums much easier than the previous version. Commenting is virtually the same. And you don’t have to hit the “back” button nearly as often as before.
The updates to Facebook’s photo-viewer come at an interesting time. At just the end of last month, Yahoo’s product chief Blake Irving was forced to tamp down rumors that the company would keep its long-running photo sharing site, Flickr, alive. This, despite a drop in numbers to the site. Facebook, on the other hand, has seen usage of its photo feature grow by 92 percent in the last year alone.
With full roll-out of the new photo functionality presumably still weeks away, it’s far too soon to know whether users will find the changes an improvement, or cause them to complain.
For those of you who have the update: What do you think? Should Facebook have kept its photo viewing the way it was, or have the changes improved the Facebook experience?