Facebook has begun rolling out its latest home page overhaul, featuring search more prominently and easier access to things like new messages and requests as well as applications.
The social network Thursday night also announced it had crossed 400 million active users worldwide as the company hits six years old. Most of the key home page changes going out to 80 million members to begin had been announced last fall. The aim is to make it faster and simpler for people to reach the most popular features on Facebook.
To that end, the very top of the page puts the search box front and center, along with icons for notifications, requests and messages to the left and links to account settings on the right. The new search box shows results for people based on how closely they are connected to a user and how many friends they have in common.
A revamped left navigation bar includes application and games dashboards that allow people to see the latest apps they have bookmarked as well as finding new ones based on what friends are using. The chat feature has also been moved to the left menu, showing friends who are online and available to instant message.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg also told the blog Inside Facebook the company plans to unveil "something cool" each month from now on, but without offering hints at any new products. TechCrunch reported Friday that Facebook is planning to replace its existing messaging platform with full-featured Webmail service described internally as a "Gmail killer."
Citing a knowledgeable source, TechCrunch said the upgraded email offering would allow users to access their mail account through sites other than Facebook itself and use vanity URLs (yourname@facebook. com) as email account names. "Tacking a real webmail product on top of those vanity URLs and Facebook connect is something even Google may shudder at," noted Michael Arrington. Facebook declined to comment on the TechCrunch report.
Facebook hit 400 million users only two months after passing the 350 million mark as the site continues its hockey stick-like growth. Zuckerberg pointed out in a blog post Thursday that Facebook had less than half that many members only a year ago.