Users complain as Facebook updates photo viewer

Facebook has begun rolling out an updated photo viewer to all users following a limited trial last year and as with all changes to the site, Facebookers are divided over the new viewer.

Around October 2010, Facebook began testing a revamped, pop-up style photo viewer to replace the existing in-page viewer. The new viewer, dubbed the Facebook Photo Theater, now appears to be rolling out to all users.

In a blog post, Facebook UI engineer Stefan Parker explained that with more than 100 million photos uploaded to the site daily, the old viewer was ''in dire need'' of a refresh.

He said the key problems with the ''old'' viewer revolved around speed, reliability comments and poor, out-of-date code.

  • Images were slow to load, and sometimes hung indefinitely. Users were forced to refresh their browsers to view photos and comments.
  • Viewing photos from News Feed meant having to open multiple tabs or be forced to lose your place. Not a big deal for the computer-savvy, but not a common practice for a large percentage of our users.
  • Reading comments on photos was cumbersome. A standard practice was to view a photo, scroll down to read the caption and comments, scroll back up to page, and then repeat.
  • The JavaScript to load and cache photos and comment data was heavy; it was pieced together over the years as browser technology evolved and requirements changed.

Over the course of several months, Facebook experimented with a number of concepts before settling on the design that users now see. According to Mr Parker, the resulting viewer is far lighter, faster and more adaptable.

''The old photo page loaded batches of 20 photos through AJAX along with their captions, comments, and so forth. This resulted in the calls taking upwards of 3 times longer than if each fetch were just the images themselves,'' he said.

The new viewer fetches images and data separately, he said.

''To make the images load as quickly as possible, each time a users pages we check from which direction and prefetch the next 5 image resources so that when the user reaches a photo it will already be cached by the browser and displayed immediately,'' he said.

But as with any design change to the world's most popular social network, a vocal group of users have taken Facebook to task over the new photo viewer.

Commenting on Mr Parker's blog post, one user claimed the change had actually slowed the photo viewing experience.

''The pics still load slow and they are way smaller. Plus the writing below is very blurry which hurts your eyes when writing comments, etc,'' she wrote.

Another pointed out that users no longer have the ability to right-click and save photos and the URL previously available to share photos with other users is also gone. Neowin has also experienced issues with the new viewer failing to properly scale photos on smaller screens, resulting in parts of the image being cut off, or the comments section not appearing without scrolling.

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52 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

I, for one, like this update. I can look at recently-posted pictures, comment on them/like them all without leaving my news feed. Before I'd have to open a bunch of tabs for the sole purpose of looking at individual pictures, and not losing my place in the news feed. This "picture HUD" solves that problem nicely.

Well done, Facebook. Haters gonna hate.

I'm surprised there wasn't a comment describing this, but for a quick fix (and perhaps a developer might make an addon/extension to do this automatically)

To get to the traditional "photo viewing" site, click the photo, and then delete the &theater from the URL.

Thank you and have a wonderful day.

It's kinda sad but I get fed up of people whinging about the slightest little change.

If people really cared that much, they'd use the internet, the largest collection of human knowledge ever...which they only use to talk to their friends, to do some research and see that all proposed changes are posted here:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/fbsitegovernance

Fatheed said,
It's kinda sad but I get fed up of people whinging about the slightest little change.

If people really cared that much, they'd use the internet, the largest collection of human knowledge ever...which they only use to talk to their friends, to do some research and see that all proposed changes are posted here:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/fbsitegovernance


Hm, I'm sure that's just for changes to their privacy policy and other such things.

The issue is not that they put in a new picture viewer, its that the implementation leaves a lot to be desired (Trying to say it a nice way).
- Pictures dont always load
- When they load many times they get cut off
- The new viewer was design to allow users to load "bigger" pictures, however, it seems to have a hard time dealing with older stuff that was loaded with low resolutions (IE - some pics are freakin blurry)

So no its not about complaining for change sake, its about being on the forfront on Tech (as FB has become, I dont know how) and not doing it right.
- When Microsoft releases an update, and it screws with a handful of pc's (a couple of 1000 compared to millions of user base) people are ok going ape s!@# over it.
- When apple has antenna issues that affect a portion of its use base, people are ok going ape s!@# over it.
However, when dear old Facebook implements something that has issues that affect a portion of its user base, and that user base complains, the user base is a bunch of "Whiners"

So why the double standard.....

This is especially true since if Microsoft / Apple or any of the other tech firms out there do something that screws things up, you have a way to formally complain, to the company (phone or online tech support) yet with the Giant Blue Whale known as Facebook, I dont even get a contact # or any other recourse other than its Help pages. (And those are about as helpful as asking a 2 yr old)

Oh and BTW as I get off my soapbox this morning.
The contact phone # for the main offices at FB is 650-543-4800
Just in case anyone wanted to know.

I don't usually complain, I'm a change supporter... but this sucks. It hasn't fixed a single problem.

Photos don't load quicker than they used to. I still need to scroll to see comments, but now in this little box. It's bad

I've come across the new one a few times, it does hang but tap refresh and it fixes it, i dunno if it reloads the same viewer or the old one.
Also, saving pictures in FF you can still click save image

I don't want my 'new viewer' to fetch 'images and data separately'
Thats lame. In fact this is slower for me now then it was before.

To all those complaining about not being able to download photos:

1. You're probably a creep.
2. Remove the "&theater" from the url, and shazam! You're looking at the old viewer allowing you to right click and download.

"Another pointed out that users no longer have the ability to right-click and save photos and the URL previously available to share photos with other users is also gone."

I would love all the right click options back.

tehmemories said,
"Another pointed out that users no longer have the ability to right-click and save photos and the URL previously available to share photos with other users is also gone."

I would love all the right click options back.


They're all there when using Internet Explorer 9 RC.

Facebook is a free service and you don't have the right to complain - The default answer from facebook to any complain from users.

The word "user feedback" should be banned for Tech companies.

people like to nag whenever any fb change occurs...

after the second change they will request the old view (which zey complained about back in the time it was posted)....

and the forloop never ends

eliokh said,
people like to nag whenever any fb change occurs...

after the second change they will request the old view (which zey complained about back in the time it was posted)....

and the forloop never ends

That's because Facebook has a habit of introducing stupid design changes that the majority of people dont like. I dont recall a massive backlash when they introduced the "like" feature (except calls for the opposite.

Some of Facebooks changes have been a welcome modification others haven't. The photo viewer is so god damn clunky and awful I havent even started to use it to get used to it. Id rather just refresh and use the old one.

this is quite simply down to the old saying that people don't like change. everytime facebook changes anything or enables new feature we get people whinging and complaining. the new photo viewer is cool in my opinion and i really hope it's here to stay.

Users complain about absolutely everything. Humans as a whole are quite conservative and resistant to change. If you listened to them nothing would ever change.
For example, I'm pretty sure we'd still be on Windows NT4 at work I listened everytime our users got upset about change,.

I'm having no issues with the new update !

Well, I can't have issues if I can't see the update.....
I've still got the old viewer ?!?

I really dont like it, harder to save pictures and even on a 24" screen it just feels oversized for some reason.

Chemaz said,
I really dont like it, harder to save pictures and even on a 24" screen it just feels oversized for some reason.

It is not harder to save pictures. You can just click 'Download photo'. It's on the same page.

King Antonius said,
It's fast is it?? Tell you what, try it with an iPad.

They tried it on the Touch site. It's one of many reasons I still use m.facebook.com and not touch.facebook.com the photoviwer is crippled even on the iPhone

MightyJordan said,
Simple solution: open the photo in a new tab, and you view it in the old photo viewer, with all the old features still there.

Or just remove "&theater" from the URL, when viewing a photo with the new viewer.

It's a very poorly implemented lightbox. It's slow, cramped and sure as eggs is eggs doesn't fit in the overall style of Facebook.

njlouch said,
It's a very poorly implemented lightbox. It's slow, cramped and sure as eggs is eggs doesn't fit in the overall style of Facebook.

I've had no problems with it being slow, but it has taken me a bit of time to get used to it. I'm still not sure whether I'm happy with the way it looks or not. This is the first time it's ever taken me a while to get used to the look of a Facebook product.

I hate the no right clicking to save images...
I can however use Opera's Firefly. Works great. But now it's an extra 2 steps...

ncc50446 said,
I hate the no right clicking to save images...
I can however use Opera's Firefly. Works great. But now it's an extra 2 steps...

There is a Download Photo link in the details section of the viewer.

TrOjAn. said,
right clicking works fine to save images..

it really doesn't, in FF you get the option to open a link and thats all, its quite annoying actually

Chemaz said,

it really doesn't, in FF you get the option to open a link and thats all, its quite annoying actually

It really does, Ive just done it - IE9 RC though.

virtorio said,

There is a Download Photo link in the details section of the viewer.

es there is, which is better as you get the full res version!

duddit2 said,

es there is, which is better as you get the full res version!

Only if their is one available most people don't upload in High Res as it takes a while. The no copy and paste is my major gripe! If I want to dump something quickly into Outlook or Photoshop I dont want to have to download and re-open it or have to insert from where I just downloaded.

If you want the high res then fair enough but for simple grabs this is a step backwards.

Unplugged said,
Only if their is one available most people don't upload in High Res as it takes a while.
Please don't tell me you're complaining at Facebook about that?? Of course you can only download hi-res if the uploader, y'know, uploaded it.

Kirkburn said,
Please don't tell me you're complaining at Facebook about that?? Of course you can only download hi-res if the uploader, y'know, uploaded it.

I wan't complaining at Facebook for that.

I was complaing at the fact that their is no advantage to "Downloading" a low-res version of an image when I can just right click and choose save or copy.... not anymore though however. I have to download it somewhere just to re-open it or insert it into my document or e-mail where as before I would just copy it.

Chemaz said,

it really doesn't, in FF you get the option to open a link and thats all, its quite annoying actually

Right-clicking and selecting 'Save picture as' works fine for me when using Internet Explorer 9 RC, but as you're using Firefox, you could just click on the 'Download photo' link when viewing the photo.

GrandTheftAuto said,
This is NEW-s for Neowin man...

Around October 2010, Facebook began testing a revamped, pop-up style photo viewer to replace the existing in-page viewer. The new viewer, dubbed the Facebook Photo Theater, now appears to be rolling out to all users.

mages were slow to load, and sometimes hung indefinitely. Users were forced to refresh their browsers to view photos and comments.

No difference with today's photo viewer

TrOjAn. said,

No difference with today's photo viewer

My only complaint with the new Photo Viewer is that 720px Tall Pictures get downsampled and blurry.