Facebook Rolls Out New Lightbox View

Thomas Hawk By Thomas Hawk
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Today for the first time I noticed that Facebook has rolled out a new lightbox view for photos. There were rumors of a new Facebook Lightbox view coming already out in the wild, but this was the first time that I saw it myself.

Facebook's New Lightbox View
Facebook’s New Lightbox View

Google+ Lightbox View
Google+’s Lightbox View

At first blush it looks like quite a bit of it was copied from inspired by Google Photos. Remember Vincent Mo, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. ;)

The biggest change is that that comments on Facebook photos have been moved over to the right. Also it’s interesting to me that they seem to have dropped adverts on photos that have enough comments to require scrolling. This probably makes sense as it’s a way to reward high value (i.e. highly commented) photos on Facebook and below the fold adverts (where the adverts go under the comments) probably wouldn’t fetch as much as above the fold adverts anyways.

Also now, when you hover over the photo it gives you the opportunity to “like” or “tag” the photo. This is in addition to the options already to like and tag the photo that are to the right of the photo and always showing. Facebook really must want to drive “likes” and “tags” to their photos, which does actually make a lot of sense as increasing social activity on photos will drive engagement.

Simply clicking off the photo to the empty space around the photo or pressing the escape key will bring you back to the regular page you came from.

Personally I like the new lightbox view by Facebook. It’s better than the old Facebook lightbox. It’s still not as good as Google+’s which still has a larger photo – but along with the new much larger photo thumbnails in the timeline view, it’s a step in the right direction. It also tells me that Facebook has probably noticed the success that Google+ has had with photographers and is looking to try and find ways to make Facebook more attractive to the photography crowd. Facebook’s photos have come a long way since pre-Google+. Back then photo thumbnails were ensy weeny – the size of a postage stamp.

If I were Facebook I’d still make the lightbox view much larger though (like Google+). When it comes to a photo in lightbox view, bigger is definitely better.

Facebook also still needs to give us a way to crop photos in the Timeline view. Right now the imposed square crop doesn’t always best show your photo and the “resize” feature (press the star above your photo in timeline view) weirdly crops just the top half of the photo. Facebook already does have a cropping tool that you can use for your main cover photo in timeline view, so I’d think (and I hear) that better cropping ought to be coming for timeline photos at some point.

What do you think? Do you like the new Facebook lightbox for photos? And which do you think looks better, Facebook’s or Google+’s? Any other thoughts on today’s new Facebook lightbox design?


Comments on the new change from Facebook users.

Comments on the new change from Google+ users.

Update: Mike Schroepfer from Facebook comments in the comments below: “Thomas and everyone else – thanks for the feedback.

We experimented with blacking out the entire background. However, we found that may people were confused about how to navigate back from the viewer. The semi-opaque black background tries to strike a balance between having great contrast in the photo and giving people an easy way to click out/get back to FB as they need. Either way I think it is a huge improvement from having a white background.

About Thomas Hawk
Thomas Hawk is a San Francisco based photographer and technology writer. He publishes the web site Thomas Hawk's Digital Connection and is also the Evangelist and CEO of the photo sharing site Zooomr.

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