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He said the key problems with the ''old'' viewer revolved around speed, reliability comments and poor, out-of-date code.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