It's been over a year since Facebook completely revamped its interface, but our next big update may be coming soon. Facebook is now testing a design that implements a "Most Recent" news stream and fixed positioning for both ads and navigation.
What the Design Entails
You know when you go to a site and scroll down, but some element (a promotion, a background picture, a "share" bar, you name it) stays in place? That's because of fixed positioning set in the code, and it's exactly what Facebook is testing for their side- and top-bars.
Whenever Facebook users scroll down through their news feed, they'll keep seeing all the "important stuff" here – like site navigation, application bookmarks, and (you guessed it!) ads.
The fixed position UI change is being paired with another experimental update, known previously as "Happening Now" and currently being tested under the name "Most Recent." Most Recent is a different news stream organization which displays short snippets of real-time activities, including minor updates such as friends liking new pages, confirming new friend connections, and so forth. Most Recent is displayed above the standard news feed, which will continue to use the current organization method that mixes both chronology and popularity.
What This Means for …
Advertisers: Your ads will be getting more time on the page for each impression, meaning that CPM investments will be increasingly worthwhile, you'll get more brand exposure, and the ceiling on maximum impact per user just went way up. However, the cost for CPM is likely to go up due to increased competition for the ad spot.
Businesses: The Most Recent feed will give you more space above the fold to be seen for your own page updates, as well as an increased chance of viral spread when someone likes your page.
Developers: Links to bookmarked applications will be more consistently displayed. The content shared in the News Feed is a mixed bag. While snippets will be displayed more often, the visually enticing shares will be more likely to appear below the fold.
Users: You'll be able to access navigation and bookmarks more readily, but you'll have to see ads continually. Those on low-resolution computers (e.g., netbooks, older laptops, your great-uncle's Windows 95 system, etc.) may have trouble seeing the all of the side-bars, since fixed positioning breaks when the bar is taller than the maximum screen size.
Facebook: While keeping impressions on ads roughly the same, the click-through rate should increase; the value of ad slots will go up in CPM bidding while CPC bidders will naturally spend more. Users will whine to the extreme – threatening to shut down their account and raze all the world's rainforests – for approximately three days, and then will forget the update happened.
In any case, the test version is only being shown (according to Inside Facebook) to a fraction of a percent of the Facebook population. However, the update seems like a great next step for Facebook to take, especially considering their intensely high impression rate and painfully low click-through.