Hints of a Facebook Operating System In New Design

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It’s become a common trope to say that Facebook and Google are vying to become the operating system of the Internet. But there are some very clear hints of that in Facebook’s upcoming new design, which it just opened up to today in a developer sandbox. (You can see it at http://www.new.facebook.com, although you’ll need to download some libraries to start testing apps with it).

It appears that Facebook is moving closer to becoming a Webtop application, fusing elements of the desktop into the Web experience.

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Eagle-eyed TechCrunch reader Ryan Merket (above) noticed something vaguely familiar about the new design. See the menu bar above his profile? Look closely. Its got some handy menus on the left that take him to his profile, his friends, applications, and inbox.

newfb-searchbar.pngAnd on the right of the menu bar is a search box. That is the same visual metaphor you find in the menu bar on desktop operating systems.

The menu choices are different than on you desktop, because these tap into Web applications and resources. But the navigation is the same.

Menus on the left.

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Search on the right.

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And don’t forget the chat bar on the very bottom that, like a status bar, shows you how many of your friends are online and lets you chat with them.

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Could this be the work of Facebook’s Parakey acquisition from last July finally bearing fruit? Parakey was the pre-launch startup from Firefox co-founders Blake Ross and Joe Hewitt that was working on a “web operating system.” Facebook was rumored to have beaten Google on the deal.

Facebook is already well on its way to becoming an operating system of sorts for the Web. (This time around there will be room for more than one OS). It is the application platform of choice for many Web developers. (Tomorrow, it turns one year old). But why reinvent the wheel on the user interface side when everybody is already trained how to use a menu bar? The aha moment will be when people click on those menus and a whole new world opens up to them.

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