23 Sep 2011

Facebook Timeline will tell ‘story of your life’

As Facebook users complain about yet more changes to the social media site, Channel 4 News takes a look at the promised “new way to express who you are” and finds we might even learn to like it.

Facebook Timeline will tell 'story of your life'. (Getty)

Founder Mark Zuckerberg introduced “Timeline” at Facebook‘s F8 conference in San Francisco, telling entrepreneurs and journalists the new-look site is “the heart of your Facebook, re-thought from the ground up”.

“Timeline” is billed as the “story of your life”, taking a scrapbook format similar to Tumblr or Intersect which promises to create a patchwork of memorable photos and posts uploaded over the years.

With an interface described as “beautiful” by Mashable it can also go back to include years before Facebook even existed, so users can add photos and events from, say 1995 when they got married or 1970 when they were born.

Matt Brian, from The Next Web, told Channel 4 News: “Timeline simply collates information that already exists on your account, nothing is being dug up and regurgitated that you haven’t seen before. If you don’t want something to be on there, you can take it off.

“Many users will love to see how they have changed, for better or worse, over the years. The Timeline feature will bring back many more fond memories than those you would rather forget – you can, of course, delete anything you aren’t so sure about.”

Expanding on Facebook’s famous “like” buttons, Mark Zuckerberg also revealed that users will be able to connect to things even if they don’t want to “like” them.

He announced new partnerships with music site Spotify and Netflix, a popular destination for film fans, suggesting a new phase for social media where Facebook will act as an umbrella to other more niche networks.

Spotify Chief Executive Daniel Ek described how friends would begin sharing music and spot musical trends on Facebook.

Read more: Is Google+ a better social network than Facebook?

“Who would have known you were really into Taylor Swift… or that I’m into really bad one hit wonders of the eighties? Put that on top of Facebook’s 800 million users, wow, and the world will light up with music,” Ek said.

Don’t go changing?

Changes to Facebook tend to upset users with busy lives who feel they don’t have time to get their heads around yet more new features, writes Channel 4 News Social Media Producer Anna Doble.

But these same people are often found happily posting pictures of their new shoes within weeks. We’ve seen legitimate privacy concerns in the past and worries about the Orwellian feel of Facebook’s face recognition tool. But in the end not many users actually reach for the “deactivate my account” button (perhaps it’s too hard to find now in settings).

As a music fan, for me the idea of using Facebook as an umbrella site for the likes of Last FM and Spotify is appealing in one sense (less logging in, more listening) but as a rule I prefer interacting with a select group of fellow music geeks; I’d rather not inflict my love of “mid-fi synth wave” on the world and his virtual wife.

But the key part of Timeline for me is that it promises a patchwork of content from “over the years”. As time marches on it’s hard to believe most of us have been posting, poking and updating our statuses for around five years. I, for one, would love to know exactly what I was gabbling on about in Facebook-land back in 2007, when I joined. In fact, I’ve been predicting Facebook would launch a “wall search” tool for a while, as more and more of us use Facebook as a kind of “life diary”.

Increasingly emulating the god of tech, Steve Jobs, a T-shirt and jeans-wearing Mark Zuckerberg delivered news of his latest revolution as “a new way to express who you are”. Perhaps “a new way of remembering who you are” might be more apt.

The Facebook upgrade will begin to be rolled out over the next few months.

Changing Facebook: hater or lover?
Colin Foy: Why did they change something that was working near perfect? These programmers have too much time on their hands. I'm seriously considering my resignation.
Darrell Huntley: I'm starting to resent the control and harvesting of my details...
Padraic Higgins: I think Facebook is under the illusion that Google+ will win people because of its 'closed' functionality ie 'Circles'... I think they anticipated that people would like the benefit of
'closing off' certain friends from the feed... When really in effect, for me, I like having the 'news feed' open, it doesn't complicate things. 'Circles' on Google + alienates people which really goes against the social side of networking...in my opinion

Febee Jones: will be looking for somewhere else... Don't like control they are gaining over everything......:0((
Michael Short: Everybody always resists the change, but eventually they settle down and learn to use it. I believe they know what they're doing, the constant changes are an attempt to keep people interested, to avoid the stagnation and decline other social media sites experienced.
Burak Gokyigit: Discussion about Facebook while whole Europe is about to collapse economically? Priceless.
Jenny Noble: Don't like it, don't want it. So many friends complaining about it last night - I have yet to see any positive comments.
Andrew Owgan: Doesn't bother me as I use the Facebook for Blackberry app, so nothing has changed.
Nina Thom: Don't like it? Don't use it.
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