Facebook made a few significant changes that became visible to most users starting last night.
- Restructured activity stream - you can now choose exactly who you want to see in your activity stream and what kinds of activity you want to see from them, as well as how much you want them to show up.
- Subscriptions - you can subscribe to people you're not friends with, so you can follow thought leaders like on on Twitter without having to actually have a mutual friendship. This also makes your stream more interesting.
- Larger photos - let's face it, most people just use Facebook to look at pictures anyway, so they made this front and center.
- Automatic friend lists - everyone hates spending lots of time curating their 500 friends into lists so that you can control your privacy better. In fact, before this change, only 5% of Facebook users had even tried doing so. Now Facebook does it for you, automatically, so you can manage your sharing preferences filter your activity stream effectively.
- Sticky header - who hasn't scrolled down their news feed only to have to scroll all the way up again to go look at their profile? A simple, logical change.
- Ticker - see and respond to the most recent, relevant activity without scrolling or leaving the home page. The word "ticker" seems pretty silly to me as this is actually nothing like the annoying scrolling news tickers you see sometimes.
- Status update form hidden by default - this is the only thing that seems colossally stupid to me, since showing the form right there at the top of the stream was an invitation to create content.
Also note that with the new friend list features, even if you don't want to see your subscriptions to thought leaders mixed in with your friends' statuses about their recent movie date, it's easy to filter your stream to only show one or the other.
All things considered, Facebook just made themselves much more relevant. Coupled with recent changes that dramatically simplified privacy settings (albeit at the expense of some customizability that, admittedly, hardly anyone probably used) Facebook is reminding us that we might not need any other social networks.