Timeline, the redesigned version of the profile that Facebook launched yesterday at f8, gives users much more flexibility in how they present themselves. Users can customize their banner image, make certain types of content more prominent, and decide what moments of their life they want to feature. Everything users have ever posted to Facebook is now much more accessible, so most will want to browse through their Timeline and ensure all their content is appropriate and has the right privacy settings.
Here we’ll walk-through all the new features available in Timeline, how to control what’s displayed, and discuss how Timeline will impact users and the rest of the site. Facebook has struck a balance between creating a common structure for all profiles but giving users to ability customize the way they present themselves within those boundaries. In this way, the site has become more personal without following Myspace’s mistake of allowing users so much freedom over arrangement of core features that browsing becomes confusing.
Those who want to early access to Timeline can sign up at its new about page. It’s also possible to get a developer release of the Timeline now. To get access, those who aren’t already developers users must have a verified account and install the Developer app, then create an application, click “Get Started Using Open Graph”, edit some settings, then wait a few minutes and return to their profile. They should see the Timeline, and can select to make it visible it to their friends immediately or it will be automatically published on September 29th, 2011.
At the top of the Timeline is the Cover, a giant banner image. Users can select any of their their album photos as their Cover, or upload a new image. Once selected, users can click on their Cover to bring up options to reposition it, choose a new image, or remove their current Cover.
With this option, Facebook has given users more control over the look of their profile than ever before. It may also lead to the rise of applications that let users create collages or other special images specifically for use as Covers.
Below the Cover users see the biographical information that previously appeared on their Info tab. This includes their work, education, current city, and hometown. There’s also an “About” link that expands the Info section to reveal work and education details, a “History by the Year” of a user’s employment and schooling, a user’s Relationships and Family connections, their About Me text, favorite quotes, basic info and contact info. Users no longer have the option to “Feature” certain friend lists, family members, or Groups.
To get users to keep their Info up to date, there are edit links in the expanded About section and a big Update Info on the main Timeline view. By getting people to share as much biographical information as possible, Facebook gains valuable data that it can charge advertisers to use for targeting their ads.
Featured Content Categories
Beside the Info section, the Timeline displays four channels of different types of content. By default, these are Friends, Photos, Map, and Likes, but users can click a drop-down to swap in other categories into the featured slots. When viewing a friend’s Timeline, this drop-down reveal the non-featured categories.
The categories users can choose from include:
- Friends – Displays all of a user’s friends including a overlaid count of their mutual friends. When expanded, friends can be searched through or sorted by characteristic. A privacy control and link to the Find Friends feature appear in a user’s own Friends section.
- Photos – All of a user’s photo albums and videos, followed by their tagged photos and videos. Each album includes a privacy control. As the old photostrip has been replaced with the Cover this this photos section, users must pick one photo to represent them instead of five.
- Likes – A user’s Liked Pages sorted by category, with their Favorite Likes shown first followed by links to see all Pages in that category. Below, a user’s Liked Pages are displayed in reverse chronological order. With access from the main profile view, Pages now have a bigger opportunity to gain new Fans from users browsing the Likes of their friends.
- Map – A Bing map of all of a user’s location-tagged posts and updates.The map can be sorted by categories such as photos, event check-ins, or restaurants. Zooming in and clicking on an individual pushpin displays the original update.
- Subscribers – All of a user’s public and friend subscribers, and settings to control notifications and privacy.
- Subscriptions – The people a user is subscribed to.
- Notes – One column of the Notes written by users, and another of Notes that tag them. There are also links to write a new Note and view drafts.
- Apps – Users can add any of their installed apps into the category channels. When clicked on, they display a dedicated timeline of all a user’s activity within the app. Users can also see the most recently used apps of friends. The ability to display Apps more prominently in the profile could lead to a boom of development of utility apps similar to those that appear in the Profile Boxes a few years ago.
- Certain preferred media partners, such as Spotify and Hulu show a special “All Time” of a user’s most frequently consumed content, such as their one most watched video and a list of their other “Top Videos Watched”. The ability to display Apps more prominently in the profile could lead to a boom of development of utility apps similar to those that appear in the Profile Boxes a few years ago. Facebook also automatically creates categories that aggregate specific types of media activity, such as “Music” category that shows Spotify and Rdio activity together.