On February 10th, Facebook announced the beginning of implementation of their new photo viewer called the “Facebook Photo Theater”. While Facebook boasted that the new photo viewer would improve the user’s photo viewing experience and boost photo viewing by 5% (Facebook Blog, 2011) there are mixed reviews. Well less “mixed” reviews and more-so straight forward negative reviews on the part of actual Facebook users. On the actual Facebook blog where the new photo viewer rollout was announced, there are over 2,000 comments from users sharing their opinions on the new feature. After scrolling through about 4 pages of comments, there wasn’t a positive comment in sight. Many complained of the black frame surrounding the picture being ugly and unnecessary. Other popular complaints included that the new feature made the pictures smaller, made it harder to tag friends, restricted the ability to save pictures and use the chat feature while viewing pictures as well as complaints of the feature skipping pictures when trying to view. There’s even been an influx of new Facebook groups bashing the new photo viewer, such as “The new photo viewer is horrible!” and “I HATE THE NEW FACEBOOK PHOTO VIEWER!!!!!!”.
While users have thus far deemed the new photo viewer an unnecessary burden, Facebook maintains that the upgrade was “dire”, saying that not only would it improve upon some of the various problems that the old format harbored but that the previous photo viewing format was “some of the oldest code in the system” and that it was due time for an upgrade (Developing Facebook’s New Photo Viewer, 2011). Facebook says that the new format would make photo viewing, tagging and uploading faster and easier as well as improve the quality of pictures viewed. When previously viewing photos from the news feed, upon clicking the picture, a new page would load redirecting the user from the news feed page and consequently making them loose their current place in browsing. In order to maintain their place in browsing, the user would have to open up multiple tabs (if they knew how). Facebook says that with their new pop-up photo theater feature, users can avoid both the loss of place when browsing and the opening of multiple tabs to view pictures. Facebook also argues that the new feature improves viewing comments saying that it eliminates the “cumbersome” back and forth, up and down scrolling that was needed to view comments in the old format. Other improvements include faster loading of pictures and the elimination constant refreshing and indefinitely hanging pictures.
Upon taking a closer look at the new photo theater feature, it can be concluded that the future popularity of the new feature is a tossup; it really depends on the user’s preference. However the future of the new feature’s existence is definite; it’s here to stay. Much like all the other past upgrades to Facebook that many complained about, such as the news feed and mini feed additions, the photo theater will remain despite the many complaints – with time we’ll all get used to it. While all of the new improvements in connection with the photo theater are not particularly necessary, some are quite convenient but that depends on what the user would rather deal with. While the new format does improve upon some pesky speed bumps from the previous format, it also comes with some new speed bumps of its own. Images do load faster (although some slow loading was experienced, it wasn’t nearly as frequent or annoying as in the previous viewing format), but the photo theater does not completely eradicate the nuisance of indefinitely hanging pictures. However, the pop-up screen is convenient for keeping your place while browsing and the black frame does add a certain “pop” in quality when viewing pictures but that is an insignificant gain. Quality of pictures has never been a huge complaint and definitely has never spawned hate groups. The new photo viewer format also significantly reduces the number of ads present while emphasizing the one that remains. Pictures are somewhat smaller in the new viewing mode but not significantly. Although Facebook claims the photo theater would rid users of “cumbersome” up and down scrolling when viewing photo comments, it remains when viewing a picture with many comments. Also, true to the complaints of other users, you cannot save pictures while viewing them in the photo theater, and while tagging maybe faster using the new format, the experience isn’t exactly easier. Sometimes when attempting to tag friends, not all the pictures in the album show up in the tagging screen and somehow, pictures that were not manually tagged are tagged and incorrectly at that. Lastly, Facebook does offer a Help Center where they answer “FAQ” about using the new photo theater. Unfortunately none of the 3 FAQ included on the Help Center page address the subject matter complained about in the comments, but for all you old school photo viewers, simply using ctrl+click or command+click (MAC) when selecting a picture lets you view pictures the old fashion way. Enjoy that option while it lasts because unlike the photo theater feature, it won’t be around for long.