Facebook just made a barely perceptible change to its website. The notification icon at the top of its navigation bar is an image of a small globe, which used to show North and South America, no matter where you logged in from. Americans (and people looking at the iPhone app) still get that view, but now users in Asia, Africa, and Europe see an icon of the Eastern Hemisphere (as first noticed by Tech in Asia).
Here’s how mine looks in Berlin:
And here’s my colleague Adam Epstein’s in New York:
A Facebook spokeswoman told me that the change was made very recently: “I suspect overnight.” (Two years ago, a design blog posted a similar geographically aware icon, but Facebook says the change was just now made worldwide.)
It’s only a few pixels, so why does it matter? Here’s one idea: The new icon, the one I see from Europe, is basically a map of the countries where Facebook is seeing huge user growth, and the company hopes to see revenue growth there too. Facebook just signed its first advertising deal with an agency in India. But, Medianama reports, “while India is the largest market for Facebook outside the United States, the company seems to be struggling with monetization in the country.”
Getting Facebook users in India and elsewhere to feel a little more home in the site’s interface is a big ambition, even if it only involves a tiny bit of screen space.