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The beginning of the end of status update conformity at Facebook

Everybody noticed the font size change on Facebook’s news feed, but bumping statuses to their own line might be more significant.

Facebook changing the size of the font in the news feed is half the story. I find it more fascinating that Facebook status updates now start on their own line, and not next to a person’s name (at least on the general feed; the Wall continues to use the old design). It’s the end of an era for syntactical conformity at Facebook.

Facebook has historically tried to conform status updates to a complete sentence; for those who were on Facebook back in 2007, you might remember how each update always started with “Jane Doe is,” which seriously cramped users’ styles after the advent of Twitter and its comparatively loosey-goosey free-form status updates that required no command of subject-verb agreement (provided it fit in 140 characters). In summer of 2008 Facebook relented, dropping the “is” requirement but still placing status updates next to a person’s name, as if the name started the sentence. Gradually, people (primarily Twitter users and crossposters) ignored the structure and went on with their lives, though I often continue to spot old-school Facebook users starting status updates as if their name was the first part of it.

The coder in me always found Facebook’s attempt at conforming data enamoring; I often enjoyed the challenge of making statuses fit into Facebook’s syntax (much as I for a while attempted to make every Tweet fit into 140 characters). I thought it flowed well and gave the site some character. But times change, and I likely represent quite a minority of the 500 million+ users on the sprawling social giant, especially since I actually agree with the font size changes (and if you don’t, here’s a utility for you).

By Jared Smith

Jared Smith is a web developer and weather enthusiast living in Charleston, SC.