This mornings Facebook f8 developers conference covered all of the speculation that’s been building up for weeks. We break down the big changes on their way.
There’s been something of a catastrophic backlash from users outraged at Facebook’s recent changes to the site, namely the updated New Feed algorithm as well as the ticker. But Zuckerberg didn’t shy away from the controversy and announced some big changes to the “heart of Facebook”: Your profile.
After admitting that the “intense ownership” we feel over our profiles is perfectly understandable, we got a glimpse at profiles of the past. Remember this?
And then there was the big revamp in 2008:
Facebook’s been solving how we can tell our stories with the profile, but the site believes it’s come up with a better solution: The Timeline. This is a huge, new addition to Facebook complete with creative possibilities as well as some potential privacy implications.
Timeline tells the story of your life (or at least the part on Facebook) in three parts: Your stories, your apps, and a new way to “express who you are.” Stories appear at the bottom of the page, in the middle there are tiles to display all the apps and things you done with them, and on the right is a toggle displaying years where you click your time of choice to see what someone was doing way back when.
You can infinitely scroll through Timeline and it’s like a visual scrapbook of all the time you’ve spent on Facebook and more. You can add to it whatever you want, going all the way back to birth if you choose. Timeline won’t pull every single thing you do: It will start “summarizing” the farther back in time you go.
Zuckerberg calls it a “great way to discover all the stuff people have done their whole lives.” You can filter by videos, photos or apps to see what people have done since their time on Facebook began. And that, of course, is where some very important privacy questions surface. Facebook reassured everyone that you can hover and hide the stories and photos you want, and we’re told you have “complete control.” You can also block individuals from certain stories. The problem here is that for veteran users, there is a lot of content. Content that was posted when the site used to be college kids only. You have to individually block or delete certain stories so it sounds like a time-suck. It looks like what you’ve made private before will stick, but if you only began using privacy features within the last year or two, you might want to go back a little ways to edit your Timeline once it rolls out to your profile. We’re looking at you, class of 2005-2008, whose parents weren’t on the site when it originally launched.
Next-gen users will love the feature, however. It’s gorgeous and intuitive and fun. But the lack of privacy is a little worrying.
The new class of apps that have been created will fill in the Timeline, which will roll out in the next few weeks. There will not be a general prompt that you want to feed your activity into the Timeline instead of the News Feed, which means everything you do within that app is heading to Timeline as well. More on that later, but for now here’s a video giving you a look at Timeline.
Today wouldn’t have been complete without an announcement regarding Facebook’s new music tools. As was expected, a host of sites including Spotify, IHeartRadio, Vevo, Turntable, Slacker, MOG and more announced their partnership with Facebook. Now, you will be able to see what your friends are listening to either in the News Feed or the ticker, based on how important Facebook’s algorithm judges the activity to be. Then, you can click to listen along with them online.
Music will also show up in your Timeline view since by approving the app, you send your activity there. This means you can see a friend’s music listening history on their Timeline.
New class of apps
Much of today’s event was devoted to discussing Facebook’s Open Graph and the next class of apps. The announcements regarding apps were two-fold: Announcing the new “verbs” for Facebook as well sharing everything you do with media.
Everything users do with outside media will now be integrated into Facebook as well. Watching a TV show will show up in the ticker, where someone can choose to join you via a new canvas app from Hulu. At the moment, watching content via Netflix won’t be available in the US for legal reasons – but that might not be the case for long.
Lifestyle apps will track and express things like running, cooking, sleeping, eating… there’s an app for virtually everything. And friends can join in with these things and post their own activity. Here’s a video from Facebook giving you a glimpse at interacting with these apps.
Your activity within these apps will be, as Zuckerberg put it, “frictionless.” Details are still incoming, but we took this to mean that when you initially approve an app, you grant it the power to pull all your activity into the Timeline as well as your ticker. This means that if you integrate Spotify with Facebook, every song you listen to online pops up with a link in the ticker for friends to join you, and will also be saved in my Timeline. Again, you can delete individual notifications, but it seems as though you are granting these new class of apps a lot of control up front. That said, this is likely to address user complaints about being prompted to share something every time they use an app, so either way people are going to complain.
And one more note on listening with people via the ticker: You will be able to listen to the song via whatever player your friend was using, given that a variety of streaming services are integrating with Facebook.
It isn’t only multimedia that Facebook is revolutionizing via its Open Graph. News will be getting the same treatment, with new canvas apps from the Washington Post and The Daily launching. You will start to see subjects being read about in the news from your friends –- for instance, you may see the subject “NBA lockout” in your stream if enough people have shared stories from canvas apps. Clicking this will show you the publication they read it from.
Developers will be getting immediate access to the Open Graph, and changes are due to roll out in the next few weeks. Facebook is clearly hell-bent on monetizing how we access content, as well it should. And this is definitely setting the bar higher for competition. A Zuckerberg impersonator put it best at the beginning of today’s event: “We took Myspace, chloroformed it, drove it out to the desert, and put a bullet in the back of its skull. Kidding. Not kidding.” Other sites are still busy figuring out social networks and how to get people to use it. Today it was very clear that Facebook is way, way beyond that.
We’ll be covering the coming changes, including any new details we hear.