By MICHAEL LIEDTKE
MENLO PARK, Calif. (AP) â¿¿ Facebook doesn't want to be dismissed as an Internet has-been before its social network even enters its adolescence.
In an effort to remain hip, it is infusing the focal point of its website with a more dynamic look and additional controls designed to empower its 1 billion users to sort streams of photos and other material into more organized sections that appeal to their personal interests.
The changes unveiled Thursday are an attempt to address complaints that Facebook's hub â¿¿ the News Feed â¿¿ is degenerating into a jumble of monotonous musings and disjointed pictures. This has come as users' social circles have widened from a few dozen people to an unwieldy assortment of friends, family, businesses, celebrities, co-workers and fleeting acquaintances.
That evolution requires a more nuanced approach than the computer-generated algorithms that Facebook has been relying on to pick out the most relevant content to display in each user's News Feed. The growing popularity of smartphones and tablet computers equipped with high-quality cameras also is turning the News Feed into a more visual gallery, another shift that Facebook is tackling by carving out more space to display photos and video.
Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg hopes the makeover turns the News Feed into something like a newspaper tailored to fit the particular interests of each user on every visit to the website.
"This gives people more power to dig deeper into the topics they care about," Zuckerberg said while discussing the makeover at Facebook's Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters.
By keeping Facebook relevant, Zuckerberg hopes to avoid the fate of his company's social networking forerunners, Friendster and MySpace. Those once-trendy sites quickly flamed out, largely because they didn't say attuned to the changing interest of fickle audience. Making that mistake is even more costly in an age of increasingly short attention spans and technological tools that make it easy to find some other diversion with a quick click of the computer mouse or the swipe of a finger on a smartphone.