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Facebook kills off its experimental sidebar status updates

Facebook kills off its experimental sidebar status updates


Away, message

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In April, Facebook began testing sidebar status updates — quick, disposable messages that in some ways mimicked the carefree away messages of social networks past. But the company quietly killed off the experiment last month, Facebook tells The Verge. "We listened to feedback and learned a lot about how people want to use the sidebar to stay connected with friends," a spokeswoman said in an email. "We decided to stop working on this feature — it's no longer available and people's sidebar will change back to the original experience. We appreciate everyone who tested the feature and gave us feedback."

The test ran in Taiwan and Australia, but I got to test the feature as well. I enjoyed tapping out a few words about whatever I was up to and choosing from the dozens of icons Facebook created to accompany the messages. Had the feature ever made it to the United States, I think a healthy chunk of users would have enjoyed what amounted to a kind of shadow News Feed — a text-only place for keeping up with your closest friends. If Facebook is truly going to be "mostly video" a year from now, there's something to be said for a high-density, easily scanned feed of updates from friends.

That said, I never used sidebar statuses all that much. And while Facebook wouldn't share usage data with me, the fact that the company has killed off the feature suggests it was not among the company's most popular experiments. Still, it seems plausible that some aspects of the experiment could show up in other ways down the road. In the meantime, Taiwan and Australia, the right side of your Facebook app has reverted to a search bar, a nearby friends finder, and a list of your favorite people. If you've got some text to share, you'll have to put it in the News Feed.