San Francisco — Continuing to follow its aspiring rival, social media giant Facebook is rolling out its new photo viewer feature to all 840 million users by the end of this week, which gives awfully familiar looks and feel to Google+ users, a spokesperson for the company has confirmed to VentureBeat.
Users who open images in Facebook will find that the world’s largest social media network has changed how those photos are displayed is being motivated by its emerging competitor Google+. The latest change in the new display helps make photos more attractive by showing them larger, moving comments off to the side, and graying out the background to minimize distraction.
“The new photo viewer is rolling out to everyone on Facebook and should be available to people globally by the end of the week,” the Facebook spokesperson said in an email.
Facebook now displays an image on the left side of the screen, and on the right, includes the photo’s owner representation and when it was uploaded, comments made by friends, and sponsored stories. In a pop-up on the bottom of the image, Facebook lets users “like” or tag the photo.
In fact, this latest display helps Facebook contend with other well established photo services and social networks that already offer bigger, crisper viewers that make photography shine. Facebook is the largest photo-sharing site online, with more than 250 million photos being uploaded each day, according to the company’s recent SEC filing. A recent study by Buddy Media and comScore found that 17 percent of our time on Facebook is spent looking at photos.
“The biggest thing with photographers is they want their photos to look elegant and beautiful wherever they post them. Also, bigger is better,” photographer Thomas Hawk told VentureBeat.
The new Facebook photo viewer moves comments to the right of the image.
The current update to the Facebook photo viewer is being released almost a year after the last major overhaul in February last year when Facebook introduced a light-box like effect to its photo viewer and also made viewing and sharing easier.
Hawk asserts that the social media outfit Facebook is becoming a great place for photographers to market their work. “It is interesting,” Hawk said. “Ever since Google+ has come out and had success with the photography crowd, I think Facebook is trying to go a long way to improve photos.”
Interestingly, Hawk was recently contacted by Facebook after he published a blog post titled, “1,500 Kickass Photographers on Google+.” The Facebook employee asked Hawk what the photography community wanted out of the social network, how the community operates, and other questions on how to best improve Facebook’s photo products. According to Hawk, Facebook also reached out to other prominent photographers, such as Trey Ratcliff who Hawk refers to as “the most popular photographer on Google+.”
However, Google+ offers an identical feature: When opening photos in Google+, users will find a sidebar to the right of an image allowing them to comment or tag people. Although, the layout is not similar to Facebook’s, but they are strikingly alike. Facebook did not immediately respond to CNET’s request for comment on the similarity between the services.
Since the last several months, Facebook has been refining its Photos feature to make it easier for users to view images. In 2010, Facebook increased its maximum photo size from 604 pixels, to 720 pixels on one side. Then, in February 2011, it bumped its photo size to 2048 pixels as well. Whether or not the lightbox feature compresses them down for viewing, however, remains to be seen.