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September 12, 2008

Facebook’s contemporary face

Filed under: Blog — admin @ 12:43 am

Facebook Design War

Here are the facts:

  • Facebook introduced a complete makeover of its website design some seven weeks ago. The new design relies heavily on AJAX. Which is the technology that makes webpages “dynamic”, i.e., information on these pages changes without requiring a complete reload, just like in Gmail.
  • Currently, users are being given a choice to choose between the old and the new designs. But this liberty is set to be scrapped soon.
  • Inertia of the masses, desire to preserve status quo, confusion over the new interface; for whatever possible reason, quite a lot of people (close to a million according to BBC — 1% of the entire user base — even though I couldn’t find any such group myself) are really pissed off about the new design.
  • The new design itself can be summed up in two words: buggy & promising.

When Orkut did something similar a few months back, I was visibly annoyed. This time, I actually think the change can be for good as Facebook actually improved their experience with AJAX. Orkut’s redesign was merely the old one loading dynamically. To the end user, the difference was largely unnoticeable (evident from the fact that no one even bothered to complain about it). Facebook’s redesign, on the other hand, is a complete revamp of the end-user experience. Here’s a list of stuff that was refined as I see it:

  • The profiles are less bloated now because of the clutter being divided into separate tabs now. I unreservedly despise profiles which contain 200 applications. Obtuse folks like this … :

    Facebook Apps

    “I have so many applications I can make you feel like you’re living in the 90’s despite being on broadband. If you’re on dialup, go kill yourself. And oh, by the way, I need to get a life.”

    … are properly taken care of in the new interface. On a side note, it is entirely plausible that decent profiles is exactly what makes some people react against the new Facebook.

  • The comments on Wall posts appear instantaneously when you click the Post button. This is in contrast with Orkut’s AJAX-ified interface where you still have to wait for the whole page to reload.
  • And if you are so insistent on checking all the tabs of a profile, again, it won’t require a full reload of the page.

The interface is still buggy, yesterday night I couldn’t navigate as all the links started mysteriously appending to my current address in the address bar. In preliminary days of the new design, even basic stuff like tabs didn’t work properly. Nevertheless, the initial premises are, as I said before, promising. The bugs are getting fixed and at least they got the basic idea of an AJAX-ified interface right.

“Everything is in a state of flux, including the status quo.” — Robert Byrne

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July 29, 2008

Orkut jumps the shark

Filed under: Blog — admin @ 8:46 pm

Google is obsessed with AJAX.

No, really. It’s starting to get on my nerves now. For those who’re unfamiliar with the term AJAX, it’s a combination of technologies (like Javascript) that, in essence, allow you to navigate on a web-page quickly without reloading the whole thing. The most prominent example people may recall is of Gmail’s interface.

So, why is it such a bad thing? Here’s the answer: it isn’t. When used properly, it can be great. Gmail, once again stands out as one of the leading examples here. Nevertheless, like any other technology, it has the potential of being abused. And, AJAX, when abused, can only be surpassed in terms of pure annoyance by Flash and Java. Quite surprisingly, the most effective example of “what not to do with AJAX” is also provided by Google, with its recent redesign of the social networking website Orkut.

In my opinion, Orkut is already a lost cause. No, not because Facebook is better. When Facebook started taking Orkut’s share, it wasn’t because Facebook was technologically superior to Orkut. And until just yesterday, I considered Orkut to be superior in at least that regard.

But now, Google decides to make all of Orkut’s pages empty. That’s right. Empty. All stuff would be loaded in those pages using AJAX and here’s the insane thing: they’re uniquely identified by anchors. That’s batshit insane. From a browser’s point of view, all of Orkut is a single page now. Stuff is just loaded on it dynamically using identifiable anchors like #Home.aspx. And no, there isn’t any fallback version. You just can’t use Orkut without Javascript now. All CGI-proxy access to Orkut (using sites like KProxy) is also broken now. My Orkut login frequency, thus, has taken a considerable hit and I really don’t think I’ll be using it even on weekly bases.

Aeternum vale, Orkut.

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