Facebook Messages To See Major Changes
August 23, 2012

Facebook Announces Major Changes To Messages

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Prepare yourself for the coming storm: Facebook will be changing the way it displays Facebook Messages. This change in and of itself might not be a particularly bad thing, but if years of accrued Internet knowledge have taught us anything, it´s that no one likes a change in Facebook.

In the new layout, Facebook adopts a side-by-side approach, just like email, displaying the inbox on the left and the messages and content on the right. There will even be keyboard shortcuts available to use with the new Facebook Messages redesign.

Facebook announced this change in their blog yesterday, saying, “The new side-by-side layout lets you click your most recent message on the left to see the whole conversation on the right. You can also bring conversations to life with multiple photos and emoticons.”

Facebook´s new changes aren´t purely cosmetic, however.

According to another Facebook blog written by one Adam Wolf, the social networking giant also improved how reliably messages are sent and received across the board.

Kicking off an effort they called the “Mercury Project,” the Facebook team began to address these challenges, working to resolve issues with disconnections, incorrect message counts and duplicate messages.

“We knew the mercury project would be a significant effort because Facebook messages, and especially its chat interface, are embedded in a web browsing experience,” writes Wolff.

“As such, it poses some novel challenges as a browser application: it must be highly reliable, yet still be able to load and initialize quickly and incrementally.”

The Mercury Project team began by working together with the messages infrastructure and real time infrastructure teams to adopt new, reliable chat and messages implementation.

The Mercury Project team then had to reconfigure how they managed JavaScript dependencies, saying their current system would allow a developer to write a function that worked on their machine, but the function would break as soon as it hit production. Taking a modular approach, the Mercury Project team adopted a system they say is similar to CommandJS.

“We had to port a bunch of code to the new module system for mercury, but this was well worth it, and proved to be a game-changer,” writes Wolff.

This team took an even deeper look into writing a new layout for messages, even so far as to rethink their testing process. According to Wolff, while some team members focused primarily on writing out a new testing framework for this code, all team members contributed to this test “scaffolding,” ensuring a quick and efficient adoption by the entire team. Soon, according to Wolff, their new testing framework began to spread to other teams at Facebook, and they plan to contribute it to open source for any other teams to use.

Wolff and team´s efforts and contributions should be soon felt by Facebook users, as the social company has said they´ll begin rolling out the new, redesigned Facebook Messages to a small percentage of users this week, and will be rolled out to all in the next couple of weeks. Now, all we have to do is grab some popcorn, sit back and wait for the inevitable firestorm as people complain about a new redesign to their beloved Facebook.