FriendFeed has just made available a new look for users who want to give it a spin ahead of its launch to the general public. Users who visit beta.Friendfeed.com will see the slightly new look that may not seem all that different from the old version, but frequent users will notice a slew of updates the greatly improve the service's social experience.
One of the big new features is the inclusion of photos. You can now post a photo, not just text or a link. Previously the service would pick up photos from some items like from certain news outlets or places like Flickr, but if you found it on an unsupported site it would just show up as a big link. You can now simply upload a shot straight from your hard drive or via URL and it will show up. This could easily be the first step for other FriendFeed-hosted media types like audio clips and videos.
Another small but incredibly useful change is the way subscriptions and user grouping are handled. From the account settings you can now mass subscribe and unsubscribe from other FF users. Before today I had had a heck of a time subscribing to people who were subscribed to me. I'd have to select each user one at a time, which also required visiting their FriendFeed page--it was a pain and did not scale well. You're also now able to group certain people like you would in Google's contact manager or Facebook to separate buckets. FriendFeed starts you out with favorites, personal, and professional, but you can make as many other groupings as you'd like. You can also set up "best of" sections for each of these groups in case you feel like weeding out the good stuff.
Of all the changes that are going to take the longest to get used to is the complete shift of the user interface to the right side of the screen. I find it a bit of an abomination considering I consume most of my FriendFeed content from the iPhone, which will probably always have top-sided navigation. That being said, things you've bookmarked and commented on now have a far more prevalent spot, making them easier to go back to in order to see if others have added onto the same discussion or responded to you.
No word yet on when this will be devouring the normal public-facing version of FriendFeed, although given the frequent release schedule of this company it might only be a matter of weeks. If you're still on the fence about FriendFeed check out our Newbie's Guide, which after publishing in early June might be in need of a refresh.