The new display helps make photos more attractive by showing them larger, moving comments off to the side, and graying out the background to minimize distraction.
The lightbox feature has slowly been released to pockets of Facebook users over the last week. The new display helps Facebook compete with other photo services and social networks that already offer bigger, crisper viewers that make photography shine.
In the beginning, photos were small and lived on the actual web page. Then Facebook introduced its Theater feature, which turned the photos into pop-ups. Now, the lightbox feature dims the whole Facebook page and subdues the comments box by moving it to the right side of the screen. When you click on any photo on Facebook, it will now fill your screen and the background becomes a light grey. The photo information and comments are displayed on the right, eliminating the need to scroll down to see comments. When you hover over a photo, two large buttons to like and tag a picture are also available. Ads appear in the lower right corner as well on certain photos.
The new interface has also taken advantage of some under-used advertising real estate and now shows sponsored posts below the comments. However, the advertisements are pushed down as more comments are added.
Photographers are enthusiastic about two other recent photo features on Facebook: the cover photo at the top of the new timeline feature and the new thumbnails. Ever since Google+ has come out and had success with the photography crowd.
Google+ allows you to upload photos up to 2048-by-2048 pixels; any larger will be resized down. In 2010, Facebook increased its maximum photo size from 604 pixels, to 720 pixels on one side. Then, in February 2011, it bumped its photo size to 2048 pixels as well. Whether or not the lightbox feature compresses them down for viewing, however, remains to be seen.
Google, which many people pointed out had the lightbox function first on Google+. Facebook tweaked its photo viewer interface, making it look a lot like its counterpart on Google+.