For a site that now serves 300 million users, Facebook still offers a surprisingly unified experience. Users do have an extensive list of privacy settings but not that many when it comes to customizing. But the options are about to become more varied with the launch of Facebook Prototypes, which will house interesting projects and upcoming features before they are released to the public and even some that may never see a wider release but which might still appeal to some users.
“Facebook Prototypes let us share the experimentation going on inside the walls of Facebook with the rest of the world. You'll be able to test any of the products and features we launch as Facebook Prototypes and then provide feedback directly to those of us who built them. To access Prototypes, visit the Application Directory and filter by "Prototypes." From there, you can activate or download any of the Prototypes listed,” Lee Byron, a product designer at Facebook, wrote.
If you've ever used Google Labs, you'll get this right away. Curious users will be able to experiment with new features before they are released for the general public and developers will get much better feedback for the projects they are working on. This should help the social network bring updated features faster and more thoroughly tested.
But with the new repository developers will also have a much greater freedom in experimenting with new ideas and, more importantly, with features that may never be rolled out on the main site but which will be very appreciated by the ones that have use for them. Facebook also said there would be less serious features like a pirate language version of the site.
One project that is already available in Prototypes is a desktop notification app that was released last week but only for Mac OS X for now. Other features include a Photo Tag search, which does exactly what the name says, and a News Feed filter that shows only the entries that have comments. There are just five prototypes at the moment but the number is bound to grow shortly.