The new Facebook Timeline: My first impressions

Gavin Llewellyn's new Facebook profile

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.

The Timeline

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!

Lifetream

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).

Gavin Llewellyn's Facebook profile page(2)

Visually impactful

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 …

Busy interface

… 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.

Jake Hamilton from Firebelly Marketing makes a good point when he says that there are comparisons with MySpace, in that all the flashy pictures and updates may become annoying to open profiles.

Privacy concerns

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?


  • Martin Broadhurst

    My initial thoughts were similar to yours in that I thought no one would fancy putting in all of their life history. For many people it’s enough of a task to keep updating you profile day in day out without going back through the years adding in scanned photos from your first holy communion or whatever.

    But this update isn’t about us.This isn’t an update for now. It’s an update for five years time/ten years time/the future. It’s about giving young users a place to start creating an entire life history that FB can then mine for data and sell to advertisers.

    My FB history goes back to 2007. That means I have 22 years of living not documented by FB and it’s too much bother for me to go back and fill in the blanks. However, a 13 year old joining the service will have just about their entire life documented on there.

    On the whole it’s a nice feature. I think it gives FB something special that people will enjoy. What will be more interesting to keep an eye on it the new features for the open graph and the rest of FB’s social layer. The battle for control of the social layer that sits on the web is about to hot up. 

    • http://twitter.com/gavinllewellyn Gavin Llewellyn

      Hi Martin, thanks a lot for the comment.

      You’ve made some great points. Younger people (I sound very old now!) seem to be much more open to sharing information on social networks so the strategy Facebook is employing – should it work out – is likely to pay off in due course.

      Timeline is an interesting/ fun feature and although the current discontent over the profile changes (which always happens after an update) will settle down, I’m still not sure whether it will be a winner with the masses. But time will surely tell.

      It will certainly be interesting to see how things develop re Facebook’s Open Graph. Because my post was predominantly about Timeline, I only glossed over the socialisation of apps, for example, which I think is a very interesting concept and one of many updates that will likely move things forward at an even faster pace.

      As I mentioned in the post, the battle for people’s time and attention within social platforms (e.g. Google+ vs Facebook) is really taking off now and I think this is for the best. The more competition, the better the product (a point I always make to my left-leaning friends!).