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Facebook gets a face lift; MySpace loses execs

ByABC News
March 5, 2009, 1:43 PM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Facebook said it's overhauling key parts of its "news feed" the stream of status updates, photos and more that members share with one another to make it more appealing to users and advertisers.

"Facebook has evolved to make sharing information more efficient and to give people more control," CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post. "This year, we are going to continue making the flow of information even faster and more customized."

Starting Wednesday, Facebook is replacing the "status" box at the top of a member's home page with a box asking a Twitter-like, "What's on your mind?" In it, users can post thoughts, photos, videos and more that make their way to a news feed friends can see.

Perhaps more significant, Facebook added more sophisticated filtering to that stream of shared material. Now, you will be able to set limits on what you share or see the most of: choosing, perhaps, to glimpse only updates from close friends and relegating business contacts to the sidelines. You might ax overly talkative friends, for instance, so their frequent updates are removed from the news feed.

Facebook also offers a Pages feature that is akin to a static home page for public figures such as President Obama and Britney Spears, and organizations such as CNN. As of Wednesday, those pages started to look more like individual profiles. Users of public profiles are now able to sign up fans as friends, issue status updates and send messages. Among those with new profile pages are U2 and Stanford University.

"This will be successful because it gives Facebook users more control over news feeds, and it replicates Twitter," says Jeremiah Owyang, senior analyst at Forrester Research. He says 18 million Facebook users update their status at least once a day.

Meanwhile, the loss of three key MySpace executives, following the departure of the News Corp. executive in charge of the social-networking site, has sparked concerns about MySpace's future amid a reeling economy and Facebook's rapid growth.