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Facebook makes profiles more personal

December 5, 2010 |  3:16 pm

Facebook began rolling out a redesign of its users' profiles Sunday, a move Facebook says is intended to better define and display who each user is.

The redesign will reach all 500-million-plus users by early next year, the social networking site said.

The makeover, which makes personal data more visible and visual, was revealed during a "60 Minutes" interview with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg slated to air Sunday night. And an introduction to the new profile page layout is on Facebook's blog.

The profile page is at the heart of Facebook, the place where a user expresses who he or she is. The new layout is designed to give a better sense of who users are while encouraging them to share even more information with their friends.

If users do share more, that could create a bonanza for advertisers who could target users based on that data. EMarketer says Facebook will ring up $1.28 billion in worldwide advertising revenue this year, up from $665 million in 2009.

On the redesigned profile pages, biographical information such as the user's employer, hometown and birthdate is displayed at the top of the page. Also prominently displayed are the latest photos of the user, tagged by the user or by friends. A new section lists the most important people in a user's life. Another feature shows a history of a user's Facebook interactions with any of his or her friends.

"Facebook wants to encourage people to update their pages more," Altimeter Group analyst Charlene Li said.

Now that the profile page is more prominent, users who have neglected to update their profile for months or years will be more likely to do so, Li said.

That will start more conversations between friends, making Facebook more valuable to those relationships, and encouraging people to spend more time on the website, Li said. Plus, the kinds of information on the profile page -- what movies and books or other hobbies users enjoy, for example -- are extremely valuable to advertisers, she said.

Li also anticipates an uproar from users who typically voice their displeasure whenever Facebook redesigns a major part of the site. She said Facebook is trying to "cushion" the new profile page layout for users by not making it mandatory.

This redesign is the latest of several new features, including a new messaging system, an online check-in application and a deals service that Facebook has introduced to woo users and advertisers.

Related:

Facebook unveils new messaging service

Facebook opens up about mobile, unveils new Deals program

With Facebook's new Places feature, users can announce where they are

-- Jessica Guynn

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