Facebook’s new Timeline profiles start rolling out to the public today. Many users were able to preview the new profiles early through Facebook’s Developer program, so I’ve already had a week to play around with Timeline. You’ve probably heard a lot of buzz about its “great design” or “privacy nightmare”, so what’s all the fuss about?
One of the benefits of being both a software engineer and a tech blogger is that I hear unique, contrasting opinions from members of both groups. Software developers tend to abhor innovations in social networks (and it’s no wonder, they understand how data can be misused more than anyone). Many bloggers, on the other hand, swarm around new web innovations, especially when big companies like Facebook release a newsworthy feature.
I’m going to say something that most members of the first group probably wouldn’t agree with: I really like Timeline. Borderline love. While I’m not eager to throw personal information to the wind, I’m excited about Timeline and think it’s a great move by Facebook.
We’ve never seen this before
The release of Timeline is a rare moment when a company in the social networking sphere does something truly unique. Google+ brought the thunder by introducing great privacy-based sharing tools, and Facebook responded by releasing one of the best-designed web features I’ve seen in a long time. When you look at Timeline for the first time, you won’t need any explanation. Timeline is something you already know how to use, and intuitive design is no accident.
When I first got access to Timeline, I scrolled through 2011 and thought, “Yep, cool, that’s basically what happened this year”. No surprises. Then I started scrolling through 2010, 2009, 2008, and back to 2005 and was completely blown away. Timeline showed me pictures and wall posts that I had long forgotten about, and I easily lost a few hours looking at pictures and reminiscing about the things I did those years.
Digging through old posts on Timeline even made me start up conversations with friends I hadn’t talked to in years. A friend of mine put it very well on Twitter:
Another thing I’ve noticed is increased interaction on my posts and pictures from years ago. Since Timeline highlights important events from each year, you’ll notice that important posts will continue to get attention long after they were breaking news. Sure, it might not be a big deal when you post a picture of the ice cream you ate last night, but when your friends and family scroll back to the year your kids were born or when you bought a house, it will continue to be an important (and enjoyable) memory.
Privacy hasn’t changed, you’re just aware of it now
A lot of people seem to be up-in-arms about Timeline because it suddenly displays posts you didn’t know existed anymore. I hope this isn’t news to anyone here: everything you do online is stored somewhere, and it’s in your best interests to assume that information will be there forever. Just because a post was pushed off your Wall back in 2006 doesn’t mean it went away permanently. The good news? All posts and pictures are still subject to the same privacy rules you applied in the first place.
Besides, features like Timeline can be a good thing if used correctly. You’re entirely in control of what gets displayed to your viewers, so make yourself look great! Add a Star to posts about an achievement you earned (stars “pin” the story in a prominent way on your Timeline), and remove posts that don’t reflect how you truly feel. Important events like graduation, weddings, and posts with a high amount of Likes (read “Good Things”) will be the focal point of your profile, and useless chaff like boring wall posts simply disappear.
With Timeline rolling out to a larger audience, I’m eager to hear what the general public thinks of the update. We’re all familiar with the ridiculous pseudo-revolts Facebook users have whenever a new feature is released, but I’ve got a feeling this one will be received better than most.