For casual Facebook users, email notifications are probably the part of the site they interact most with, so it’s important to keep them interested. Probably in this spirit, the most talked-about social network of the century (so far at least) made some tweaks to the emails received by users when someone sends them a new friend request. As far as I can tell from my own inbox, it was introduced sometime in the last half of March.
The new format surfaces more information about the person asking for your ‘friendship’: the number of friends they have, how many wall posts and photos they have shared and whether they are members of groups. A new button links to the ‘Friend Requests’ page on the site, probably a place rarely visited by the average user – I for one don’t remember doing that on purpose. The visual style has also changed slightly, making it more consistent with the Facebook-blue everywhere and emphasizing the branding with a larger logo.
Interestingly, the new format wasn’t applied to other types of notifications, the most obvious place being notifications about confirmed friend requests. Personally, I find the old format more informative, because I think it’s more relevant to know if the person has mutual friends with you than whether he or she has been active on the site. It’s a little odd to see Facebook removing this ‘social’ signal in favor of more general activity statistics, when at the same time it emphasizes common interests and photos all over the site. I know their main interest is to get people to visit Facebook, but the email notification should be more personalized and helpful: at least show the number of unanswered friend requests and snippets from the profile, if filled in – where they live, when were they born, the friends and pages you both have in common – to make it easier to identify the person who sent the request.