I find myself on Facebook quite a bit. And most of it I like, but in many ways it’s limited, either in preferences offered to me (my ability to customize it to my liking), or in a lack of features. I’ve tried out any number of utilities designed for tweaking the Facebook experience. F.B. Purity and Better Facebook are two excellent examples of the type of extensions available. I recently downloaded and installed another extension (available for Firefox, Google Chrome and Safari, although my experience with it was entirely with Google Chrome), called Social Plus. Social Plus is an interesting extension, advertising the ability to use color and formatting in your status updates, apply themes or skins to Facebook, and more. It’s a neat idea, but in my testing, the experience – for a variety of reasons – didn’t always match up with the advertising.
First, I’ll go over what Social Plus can do. It offers three main ways to tweak the Facebook experience. First are the options found in the basic Settings area, which includes the ability to enable smileys, add a Dislike button, enable colors and text styles in the update editor, and a star ratings system. Chat isn’t left behind either, as you can add a “wizz” (nudge) feature and also drag chat window wherever you want it on your screen. There is also a photo preview option, which enlarges photos simply by hovering over their preview thumbnails, without having to click to view the full-size photo. This last bit is probably the most useful feature (I’ll go into the “why” in a bit), and I’ve even installed a separate Google Chrome extension, called Facebook Photo Zoom, just for this feature.
In addition to all that, there are quite a few filters for your wall. You can choose to hide different types of automated messages, such as when a friend joins a group or page. You can hide when a friend wrote a comment or that they “liked” something. If their relationship status changes or when they are taking part in an event, are also types of information you can hide, as is when friends become friends with someone else.
Finally, Social Plus offers themes. Based on the introductory video, these themes or skins look pretty nice. I couldn’t swear to that, however, as I could never get the list of themes to load. This wasn’t a problem just for me, based on the number of complaints found in the comments section for the extension on its Google Chrome Extensions Gallery page (link found below). I’m not sure if it’s because I’m on Linux, or if it’s because of the particular version of Google Chrome I’m using, but while I can’t say the theme is horrible (because I couldn’t use it), I sure can say it’s a great feature… for the same reason.
Now, a bit about why I was disappointed with Social Plus. A lot of the features it offers are great. You can see smiley face icons, use color and formatting, rate posts and use the Dislike feature. But none of that is any good unless your friends all use Social Plus. Take a look at the first screenshot, where I typed a status update using text formatting. The bottom part of the screenshot shows the same status update for someone not using Social Plus. That’s no good, and is similar to what happens to a lot of the nice features for people not using Social Plus. It’s not surprising that the features don’t carry over, but since I’m not going to go on a crusade to get my friends to use Social Plus, it pretty much means I’ll be uninstalling the extension as soon as I’m done writing about it. Instead of Social Plus, give me something like F.B. Purity or Better Facebook, two extensions that allow me to fairly simply get rid of all the “junk” and extras in Facebook, and condense it to just the content I want. If you want to throw a theme in there, great, but don’t do it at the expense of making my Facebook content and updates almost unreadable for everyone else.