Facebook proved today at their annual f8 developer conference that social supremacy is born of a mix of technological innovation and having a user base that is not just massive, but rich in history.
Mark Zuckerberg, after a humorous introduction sketch with Andy Samberg, wowed everyone by introducing Facebook’s newest feature, Timeline.
I sat on the edge of my seat Zuckerberg explained the logic. The original profile was a visualization of the first five minutes of a conversation: the basics. The current profile is the next 15 minutes of that conversation: a discussion of recent activity and stories. The inherent flaw, he admitted, was that those memories fall off your wall and disappear. And while I knew what was going to happen next, I couldn’t help but feel shocked by the innovation and design beauty behind the product.
The new Timeline reorganizes and reinvents the Facebook profile as we know it. Stories sit in the bottom left of your screen, and can you can scroll down past photos and memories until the beginning. Literally. Zuckerberg’s profile starts at his May birth in Dobbs Ferry.
Above the stories feed are visual tiles, which organize the timeline by category: photos, apps, etc. The profile picture remains in the top left, albeit slightly smaller. Across the top is a “cover photo” which can represent your interests and serve as an introductory image to your profile. On the right is a list of years, which provide a quick jump to that year in your timeline. The timeline can be edited to highlight hidden items or add new milestone photos and events.
The design itself marks a distinct change from profiles past. The new layout is less about straight edges and restrictive columns. The content of the wall alternates across the timeline, and the bold cover image makes you feel like you’re on Tumblr or another blogging platform rather than Facebook. The rounded edges and off-the-grid look are reminiscent of a scrapbook, which vice president of product Chris Cox referenced as part of the inspiration for timeline.
And while there was no mention of other social networks, the message was clear. Facebook has a solid foundation of users, but it also has a deep history of those users. It’s a life story for some, and that story will now be displayed in a neat new timeline
Enhanced App Experiences
But Timeline wasn’t the only new feature Facebook rolled out at the conference. After rumors about Facebook Music, Zuck set the story straight about the new media and lifestyle apps coming to Facebook.
Users will be able to share their music, TV and movie experiences through apps like Spotify, Hulu, Netflix and a dozen other partners sites that have been part of the process. The idea is not only friends sharing their music and movie tastes, but providing tools for you to share in that experience and discover new media.
Similar lifestyle apps have been developed for Facebook. Among the examples were exercise and cooking apps, which catalog your activity on your timeline and offer reports of your activity in each app over time. From here on out, users can do more than ‘like’ something. They can share what they are reading, watching, cooking, etc. without necessarily liking what they’re doing.
This new experience adds context and meaning to the recent, and widely unpopular layout and sharing changes made over the past week. Many have noticed “topics” which group friends’ posts on a certain subject, and the sidebar ticker, which appears to be the newsfeed in real time. The ticker will be reserved for “lightweight” sharing, content that is essentially defined as not quite status worthy. It lets friends know what you’re doing, but the apps provide context to those posts. You’re not just cooking, you’re sharing recipes. You’re not just listening to a cd, you’re providing friends with new music.
Since it is a developer conference, Bret Taylor (CTO of Facebook) took the stage to explain Open Graph and how current Facebook developers can integrate their apps to fit the new timeline structure. Taylor insists that the process is as easy as defining the social aspect and the addition of an ‘Add to Timeline’ button.
Changing the Game
It goes without saying that this is a huge win for Facebook. Just a couple of weeks ago, we posted about how Facebook’s newest acquisitions would surely play a role in giving the social networks new advantages. However, no one could have predicted the magnitude of the changes made today and the impact this will have on the information sharing game.
Sadly, users will have to wait to enjoy the exciting new features (unless they find a sneaky developer loophole). While the media and lifestyle apps that utilize Open Graph will be rolling out today, only developers currently have access to the shiny new Timeline profiles.
As is only fitting, Zuckerberg left the stage as the speakers blasted the lyrics: “All I do is win, win, win.”
In the meantime..
We couldn’t let you drool over all the new features and leave you empty-handed. While you anxiously await for your profile to be transformed, we have this handy Facebook cover photo template so you can start designing a cover photo customized by you!