Now that Facebook has wrapped up its F8 Developers conference, it’s time for an overview of what emerged from the rumors and gossip. After all, with 800 million users – half a billion of which checked in to the site on one single day last week, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg – anything Facebook does is likely to affect an awful lot of people.
The ubiquitous social network has now become a giant interactive scrapbook that includes a user’s photos, videos, news, music, movies and memories, all automatically organized better than most people’s desks and shareable with friends.
Serving as the backbone of the revamped Facebook is Timeline. “Now is the heart of the Facebook experience, completely rethought from the ground up,” Zuckerberg said. “We’re calling it Timeline. Timeline is the story of your life – all your stories, all your apps, and a new way to express who you are.”
Instead of the old-style profile page, Timeline lets each user curate what’s relevant for inclusion instead of just lumping in the most recent stuff. Zuckerman said this makes the profile page a more accurate representation of the totality of each individual’s life, rather than giving equal importance to everything: “It’s how you can tell the whole story of your life in a single page.”
That way when someone looks at a friend’s page, they’re more likely to see significant events, family milestones and summary of app activity, instead of jumbling all that in with random chatter and check-ins. summary of his or her entire existence on the social network.
Getting the most current developments and details onto the profile page is now handled by Ticker, a Twitter-style stream of daily details captured in real time. “Before today, there was really no socially acceptable way to express lightweight activity. And now there is,” Zuckerberg said. “And we think it’s going to make it possible to share an order of magnitude more things and activities.”
Another category of big changes is news and entertainment. Personalized streaming music service Spotify is now deeply integrated into Facebook, so that users can listen to their music without leaving the site and whatever they’re hearing appears on Ticker. “You discover a huge amount of new music this way,” said Zuckerberg. “Listening can spread really quickly through the graph.”
Netflix and Hulu are key partners for movies and television. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told how he hadn’t watched Breaking Bad until he discovered it it through a friend. “Watching content because my friend is trumps the algorithm,” he said.
Yahoo! News, The Daily and The Washington Post are the main providers of current event content, and related activity now appears in Facebook as a socially curated experience. Those who fully enable it will see a history of what they’ve read as well as what their friends and family have read, and again this activity appears in Ticker.
Zuckerberg said this would lead to “real-time serendipity,” with friends seeing that they’re both watching the same TV show or discovering something new that several friends are enjoying. Clicking on an activity in a friend’s Ticker – a song, a movie, a game – causes a window to overlay the screen with that same activity. If the user has the relevant app installed, he or she can join the friend. If not, a sample and an invitation to install the app appear.
The philosophy behind bringing all these together is that personal networks are better than algorithms at surfacing what people are most likely to appreciate. Bringing the new Facebook experience to the increasingly important mobile platforms means that Timeline will be managed with visual cues and an “Add to Timeline” button.
By the end of Zuckerberg’s presentation, even the most gregarious and shameless felt privacy concerns churning uncomfortably in their stomachs. Facebook hardly has a pristine background when it comes to protecting its users’ personal details, and this revamp includes many more opportunities for unintentional – or intentional, of course – oversharing.
The word “frictionless” was used many times during F8, and many times it seemed to assume that everyone would want to opt in to everything so Facebook wasn’t going to bother asking. Apps apparently will report to Ticker and affect Timeline by default, because Facebook believes signing in and choosing authorizations is just “friction.”
But its one thing when all of your friends know you spent the entire weekend having a Hulu-powered Glee marathon, interspersed with playing the originals of the songs on Spotify. It’s another thing when advertisers, marketers, employers, potential employers and all Facebook business partners know it as well. Adding to that, many mobile apps, athletic trackers and other things include geodata that may be accessible to anyone who can see your Ticker.
Zuckerberg ended the presentation with a nod to Intel and Moore’s Law, then said,“We exist at the intersection of technology and social issues, and we spend a lot of time thinking about both.”
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Photo of Mark Zuckerberg at F8 by flickr user Dylan Tweney, used under Creative Commons license
Infographics courtesy of Simply Measured: