I signed up on Facebook back in 2004, mere months after Zuckerberg launched the social network at Harvard. At the time, the network was a hit amongst college campuses and was not yet available to the public. Since then, the user interface has gone through more looks and changes than Lady Gaga sees in a good month.
Yesterday, Facebook’s new “Timeline” interface was unveiled at the annual f8 developer conference, and although the changes won’t be rolled out for a few weeks, developers can take a look at it now. So can regular users, by following a few steps provided by TechCrunch. We actually don’t suggest enabling Timeline right away, but here are a couple of interesting features you should know about it.
Timeline, frankly, doesn’t feel like the Facebook you know and love. It feels like a giant album cover of your life put on display (which also explains why you can add a “cover photo” to your profile). Frankly, it’s an attractive and somewhat radical interface. With a two-column stream of updates, this redesign utilizes more space than ever before.
Scrolling is reduced to a minimum, and the upper right-hand corner presents a neat little timeline since you’ve joined. Clicking on 2006, for instance, brings me straight back to college. It’s also possible to get even more granular, sorting events by specific months.
Not unlike previous designs, the information section—where I state my occupation along with where I eat, live and breathe—fills the page, with blocks of content to segregate different types of data. There’s really not too much to comment on, other than the fact that it sort of looks a bit clunky compared to the rest of the makeover.
Perhaps a key feature of Facebook’s Timeline is the ability to go back and add important events that happened in your life. For example, it’s possible to add that you went traveling back in 2008, that you broke your leg in 2010, and that you got engaged last month. Talk about time traveling and adding some revisionist history to your life.
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An interesting thing to note is Facebook’s new Activity Log. Even though it’s private, it shows the record of every single action you’ve ever done on Facebook. A little freaky, yeah? Still, it does keep the privacy settings you’re using. If you were also hoping the new redesign gets rid of Facebook’s news ticker, forget it. You’ll be stuck with it, as well as the current chat feature.
By all accounts, Facebook Timeline is “the story” of your life. In my case, it’s the past seven years of my life profiled in one fell swoop. Over the past few years, though, as the number of my friends and acquaintances has grown, privacy factors weigh more on my mind than not. In that time, I have fastidiously curated every photo, post and action that appears on my profile. Facebook wants to keep up that same level of control with Timeline, but sadly, things have just not carried over well.
New users will find that perhaps their Facebook Timeline seems a little empty (which, trust me, is a good thing). Older users will promptly have exactly one week to quickly hide, delete and star everything you’ve accumulated publicly since you’ve joined. One would have hoped that Facebook would have kept taking cues from the introduction of Google+, but with such a vast array of radical changes, its easy to get instantly overwhelmed.
While some privacy restrictions do carry over into the new interface, things become incredibly unclear at first when making the switch. So it’s a good idea to tweak your privacy settings now before you have to individually manage every single college photo that’s ever been posted since 2004.
Some things do the stay the same, however: an item’s privacy settings are still buried in the upper right-hand drop down menu of each post. However, I still find when I am tagged within a photo album (as opposed to a snapshot), I can’t figure out who those photos are shared with. If you’re concerned about your privacy on Facebook, it’s borderline infuriating to wonder what others can actually see on your own Timeline. Hopefully, it’s something that Facebook will rectify in the near future.
There can only be two camps when Facebook unrolls the new features over the coming weeks: you’ll either hate it or love it. For those who love to languish the hours away on Facebook, it’s a godsend. For those who barely keep up with it, they’ll hate it. But it ultimately won’t matter whether users like it or not, because they’ll keep using it. Let’s face it, Facebook is so ingrained in our society at this point that to not have an account would be like falling off the face of the earth.