As you must have heard, Facebook Lite has been released in the US. Obviously, the blogosphere is buzzing with the news. The funniest part of the release is that it is so very far from complete. You really cannot modify any of your settings, and a bunch of other things. InsideFacebook has a really good overview of Lite, and they also hint that this is about something bigger:
Although Lite is primarily intended for people with slow internet connections, especially in other countries it also reflects large-scale design changes that Facebook is gradually in the process of making.
If you look at Facebook Lite, you will see that it basically looks like the FriendFeed real-time stream, just with a Facebook skin. There are some other tweaks to the interface as well, and one that I noticed this morning are the notifications. In Facebook Lite, the notifications appear as one of those “blue-gray” (I am “hue-challenged” so forgive my color description) bars at the bottom of the page. So, if people comment or like one of your posts, you will see that notification and you can click it to go to the item referenced.
However, the real point of this is that we are probably seeing the future of Facebook. The standard page is very heavy with a lot of bells and whistles. They listened to feedback and started developing Lite as a response to that. FriendFeed has always had a very clean and light interface, and they have avoided some of the normal performance issues. They introduced groups and lists without really cluttering their interface. They made the stream get updates in real-time so that the user does not have to continuously refresh to see new content. The FriendFeed purchase gave Facebook a spectacular team, but it also gave them a team that has already implemented what Facebook wants to become.
So, if you really want to see the future of Facebook, look at FriendFeed. I have a feeling that the scalability and design of FriendFeed may be what we see from Facebook in the near future. That is, once they actually finish features like modifying profile settings.