On Thursday 22nd September Facebook held its 2011 f8 developer conference in San Francisco, California, an annual event with the aim of generating collaboration and networking between entrepreneurs and developers as well as announcements of new Facebook updates. With the introduction of Google’s new social platform, Google+, earlier in the summer, there was a lot of anticipation around this year’s f8 and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had a few interesting new features to share.
In addition to announcing that Facebook had (somewhat unsurprisingly) surpassed 800 million users and that apps will become more social, the profile page changes, and particularly the introduction of the new Timeline, was probably the stand-out new feature to be unveiled on Thursday.
Timeline is being sold by Facebook as a way to “tell your life story with a new kind of profile”. It’s like an online, interactive scrapbook allowing users to post updates, pictures, videos and links about what they’re doing now – and what they did, going all the way back to the day they were born!
Timeline works as a full lifestream of information and it will be interesting to see how many users populate their profiles with information going all the way back to their childhood.
Personally, I’m a little apprehensive about including pictures and updates on Facebook from when I was younger. Facebook may want us to include our whole lives in one place, but it might take me some time before I do.
Increased engagement with friends
Timeline will allow users to spend more time on their friends’ profile pages. As it currently is, I rarely visit a friend’s Facebook profile because I just read their updates when they come into my Newsfeed.
However, the Timeline element gives me an incentive to visit a friend’s actual profile page and see what was going on not just now, but two, three or even twenty years ago, too (assuming they update their Timeline that far back).
The inclusion of a main ‘cover’ picture at the top of the page adds a real creative impact to a user’s profile and could be used as a ‘signature’ image along with the profile picture.
The two-column layout also adds a new dynamic to the page, with links, photos and videos creating a very visual and fun experience. However …
… there’s a lot going on all in one place. The scrapbook feel to the page means there are shiny photos here, an attention-grabbing link there, all of which results in a potentially cluttered space.
Following the roll out of Timeline, I would want the ability to filter content to certain friends in a similar way to how Circles work on Google+. I have different relationships with different people and the idea of everyone being able to go back in time and see what I’ve been up to is slightly disconcerting.
Timeline also reinforces a fact that many of us are already aware of: Facebook has A LOT of information about us!
Another step forward
Although it’s early days, one of my concerns is that the new updates may make the Facebook profile a little over-complicated, especially when you compare it to the simplicity and usability of Google+. Although some people have criticised Google for this, there’s surely something to be said for keeping things simple.
Nevertheless, it’s good to see Facebook taking things forward and continuing to innovate. The emergence of Google+ and their persistent pursuit of cracking the social space is encouraging both Facebook and Google themselves to constantly up their games and this can only be good for us, the users.
Note: if you don’t want to wait until the 30th September (when Facebook will introduce the new Timeline to everyone), you can always get a developer preview yourself by following these instructions.
What do you think of Facebook’s new updates? Do you like the idea of a personal Timeline?