Like relationships between humans, the relationship of Facebook to its huge user population is constantly changing. On Thursday, Facebook turned on the turbo-changer with its announcement of a series of new features.
At the company's f8 Developer Conference in San Francisco, founder and President Mark Zuckerberg announced a variety of new features, including the most talked-about one -- a revamped Profile page that includes a Timeline way of presenting your life on the site.
Back and Forth in Your Life
Timeline offers a wider profile, and an emphasis on photos or videos. A large photo of the user resides over general info, status updates, and the Timeline of what you've been doing on Facebook. Timeline includes photos, other status info, events in your life such as graduating from college, and apps you've been using.
Friends can then move the Timeline back in time, to see the same information at different dates since you joined the site. The system makes judgments about what to show, but the user can emphasize some material over others, or delete those past events you'd like to forget. Material that isn't shown is found in gray dots, and, by hovering over the dots, the user can bring a given item to the fore.
There's also the Ticker, a real-time stream of what your friends are doing, such as new friend connections, things your friends like, and so on. More important updates are in the News Feed. For those users who don't want the system reporting on their every little move, there are options to alter the kinds of activities displayed.
The new Facebook also includes a deeper integration of apps into the social framework of the site, so that members can use apps relating to interests within the site and have that activity shared. The full range of possibilities for this integration will take some time to evaluate, but already some Facebook observers are suggesting that the site is past the point of not only being a site, or even being a social graph framework that is used as a social platform by other sites, but actually becoming something of a networked operating system itself.
Other examples of that expanded role include "listen, watch, read" options. The site has partnered with a wide variety of content providers, including Spotify, Rhapsody, SoundCloud, Netflix, Hulu and others, so that music, movies, TV shows, and articles can be shared between friends in real-time. There's also a new Facebook app, Color for Android devices and iPhone, which allows you to watch a live stream from a friend's smartphone after the friend has given permission.
Michael Gartenberg, research director at Gartner, said it was not clear yet how most Facebook members would respond. He noted that previous changes to the site have been "very polarizing," but added that the response could be tempered if the changes allowed easy and obvious ways to decline the features.
Gartenberg described the new Timeline feature's ability to put "your life online" in a new way as "fascinating," and said that "social TV," where users can watch TV shows or movies simultaneously, is "one of the big trends we'll see next year."
Posted: 2011-09-30 @ 10:52am PT
I think that facebook shouldn't change the site near as much as they do. It seems to annoy more people than it pleases. A change once every year or something like that would be fine, not once a month.