At the F8 conference on the 22nd September 2011 Facebook announced the launch of Timeline, a new design for user profiles. It’s due to go live for all accounts at the end of September (though you can get it now if you prefer!). I love a good social media announcement and this one didn’t disappoint; so without further ado I give you my thoughts on Timeline.
Firstly, for all the skeptics out there it would be easy to say “hey, what do these changes matter? Facebook are always making them”. It’s a fair point but ultimately any changes they make go live to over 800 million people so it’s big business. The difference with this news is that the latest offering is aimed to encourage people to start telling their life story, all from one place. Interestingly the reaction of a friend of mine to this news was “Wow, so Facebook really are here for the long run?”, perhaps quashing any of those “it’ll end up like Friends Reunited and Myspace” rumours? Maybe.
Let’s look at Timeline and what it has to offer:
We’ve already seen photo albums appearing bigger on the News Feed of accounts but Timeline goes that one step further, and one aspect of this new design that grabbed my attention is the cover image. As well as having a profile picture Facebook have introduced a cover image which prominently sits at the top of the page. Suddenly users can individualise their profile – not just being one of those 800 million users that blends into the crowd. I like this; I can customise my page to reflect me, or put bluntly I can proudly display an image I like – be it one I’ve taken or otherwise. It’s my page and I can take ownership of it.
As well as cover images Timeline introduces a two-columned profile. Your feed is still organised chronologically but by essentially splitting the feed into two it allows you to see more as you scroll further down. As well as this, the places where you’re tagged now appear in a map. I geekily enjoyed browsing it; it gave me a visual reminder of some of the places I’d visited and enjoyable times I’d had with friends and family in times gone by. This might just encourage me to tag myself in places more often.
Now, and then
In the announcement post Facebook’s thought process behind Timeline was that stories quickly slip down the page, disappearing forever. Suddenly with Timeline that’s not the case and to the right of the page you can go back to your feed a month ago, 3 months ago, 3 years ago, all the way back to the day you were born. It’s not just about going back, you can also start adding significant events to that time – so for example I can now add a picture of me on the day I was born, or add a story about when my little sister was born. Facebook could now become the place where you document your whole life story.
Is that a good thing? I think it’s easy to raise the privacy question here as you can now reveal so much more, but ultimately it’s always your call as to how much you document online. I do have reservations about adding details about my life, but I don’t have to – users have the choice. I can think of lots of my Facebook friends who will embrace this and add photos from the past and I think that’s where Timeline is going to add an interesting dimension to Facebook, and social media as a whole.
Express who you are
Facebook have developed their apps to allow users to really express who they are; from documenting the music you are listening to, to the book you are reading and even to the food you are cooking. Apps are being integrated into the concept of telling your story. I like this idea, using Spotify I can now tell my friends what music I’m listening to and if a friend then listens to the same song it’ll pop up on their page – sharing in a whole new dimension. There are the concerns that now my feed will be full of the songs people listen to, but I’m certain there will be ways of controlling how frequently updates are posting. Interestingly since the launch of Timeline, Spotify have announced that users must have a Facebook account to register with them and this suggests an exclusivity deal with Facebook that perhaps hasn’t publicly been seen before?
I’m writing this in anticipation of the full roll out and expecting there to be some complaints when it goes live. However, the bottom line is that Facebook will always change and develop, it’s part of evolving and staying ahead of the game. Timeline is smart, adds something new to social media not seen before, integrates itself with some big players like Spotify and makes user profiles enjoyable to view. Well done Facebook, Timeline might have just cemented your future.
Have you tried out Timeline yet? What are your thoughts on it? I’d love to hear your opinion on it so drop me an email or leave a comment below.