While the media have been consumed with endless chatter about the Facebook IPO this week, the social network quietly rolled out an update to notifications that allows the user greater control when it comes to halting the flow of updates into the notification inbox. When a user hovers over a notification with the mouse, a small “X” icon will appear in the top right hand corner of the notification. After clicking on that icon, the user can click “Turn Off” to stop notifications appearing for that application, event or comment stream. Users also have the option of turning updates back on with the “Keep On” button.
This is especially helpful for gaming applications like Farmville that spam updates into the notification feed or updates from events that you didn’t attend, but neglected to decline the invitation. Users that don’t want to contribute to a long string of comments can avoid getting updates about new additions to the conversation. Users that spam groups with pointless updates can be silenced immediately.
Taking authorization for application notifications a step further, Techcrunch noted that Facebook has included a question regarding application authorization when a new app notification appears in the feed. Facebook simply asks “Do you want notifications from this app?” and the user can click yes or no immediately.
Both of these additions are definitely an excellent improvement on the previous design. Prior to this update, a user had to navigate into App Settings under Account Settings in order modify notification settings for individual applications. In order to turn off a subscription to future comments, the user had to visit the specific post and click “Unfollow Post” in order to halt the flow of notifications to their account.
Also added this week, Inside Facebook noticed that Facebook is using the right column of the Timeline page to list summaries of friends in common, recently used applications, places that a user has visited and a new activity box.
The activity box includes information such as recent photos, subscriptions, likes, new friendships, comments and Facebook Open Graph actions such as watching a video on Hulu, listening to a song on Spotify or reading an article through the Washington Post social reader. Ideally, this will help isolate less important actions from more important status updates.
The new Friends box on the Timeline page is being targeted to users as a friend discovery tool. The box mostly contains several Facebook users that you may by connected to through multiple friends rather than existing mutual friends. It’s also designed to bring greater attention to friend photos compared to the small friends box underneath the main Timeline picture.
Despite earlier indications that Facebook was rolling out Timeline on a mandatory basis for all users, the progress has been slow and many users are still being given an option to upgrade to Timeline rather than being forced into the change. According to a study recently conducted by social analytics company Attensity, over 93 percent of Facebook users had negative feelings toward Timeline out of a sample size of 138,572 public comments posted on Facebook.