Yesterday Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg presented his keynote speech at Facebook’s Fifth F8 Conference in San Francisco. The 27-year-old announced that his company would make some radical changes to the site over the next few weeks. The first and most ground-breaking would be the complete overhaul of the profile system, to now be known as a “timeline”.
Zuckerberg told the audience that the new timeline is designed to tell the "story of your life”. Timeline is a new way of looking at information about a person, rather than having the clear cut sections of photos, wall and info. We now have a complete amalgamation of "all your stories, apps, and a new way to express who you are." The new timeline lets the user control what appears on their profile completely. From users being able to set a new cover photograph at the top of their page to being able to individually select stories to give greater prominence to, the new timeline appears completely customisable. Zuckerberg’s aim is to give users the ability to learn about people’s lives and to learn their story by seeing what is important to them on their page, rather than just looking at a static profile. He demonstrated using some pictures of himself with his girlfriend that were important to him. The ability to make stories more dominant I think will really appeal, especially for users in relationships. This dynamic approach is a step away from the more rigid attitude Facebook has had towards profiles in the past, shunning requests to make them different colours, or to display different fonts. Now Facebook is allowing the user more control and interaction with their profile. And isn’t that right? Shouldn’t we be more in control of how our information is displayed on the web? Of course there are the initial concerns. What if there are parts of our stories that are not necessarily good, that we wouldn’t want to remember, or display outwardly to people? However Zuckerberg reassured that users would be able to completely hide stories from people, just like on the old profile model. I am still slightly sceptical about how this will work in practice. For some users, hiding whole years’ worth of updates might be difficult. This leads me to my second concern of how far back users will have to edit. How far will the profile allow us to scroll? This was suggested by the short film demonstration Zuckerberg showed, starting with the text “Andy Sparks was born. Aug 14, 1974”, and shows his life from a baby to grown man, all on his timeline. Putting aside initial uneasiness at a baby or toddler using Facebook, this film made me wonder if someone could take my profile and scroll all the way back to when I created my account in 2007. What information would be displayed there? Now not many people would sit and do this, and I certainly wouldn’t be willing to sit down and “edit” my storyline for the last four years to make sure Facebook was only displaying the information that I wanted it to. So the new timeline would require a level of trust in Facebook to not display anything I found horribly embarrassing from my past. I don’t think I’ll be the only user with concerns about that. Overall I think the new timeline will be a good thing for Facebook. On first glance, it appears more dynamic, interactive and more fun. And isn’t that what social networking is about? You can play with the new timeline here http://www.facebook.com/about/timeline Do you like the new timeline feature? -@lucy_callag