Rebooting Facebook

As more than 100,000 others did, I sat at a computer last evening to watch the live video stream of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg deliver his keynote speech at the start of f8, Facebook’s annual developer conference in San Francisco.

f8zuckerberg

Over the course of almost an hour, Zuckerberg laid out his grand plan for the evolution of Facebook that intends to catapult the social networking site back into the mainstream of people’s online lives.

It’s the hotly-anticipated culmination of some radical changes to the service during the past week or so that have stimulated much commentary and opinion across the full emotional spectrum.

What Zuckerberg showed last night will undoubtedly do the same in the coming days.

So what is the rebooted Facebook? Zuckerberg showed four distinct areas of change in what the site will look like and what you can do there – a timeline that will be your new profile; a new way in how Facebook apps will behave and how you use them; integration of music, movies and more right into your social experience on Facebook; and evolving the concept of liking something into far more broader sharing of your activities (almost in the Twitter sense of ‘what are you doing right now?’)

Among the credible commentaries online already that attempt to explain all the new features, first reports by Mashable, Gizmodo and BBC Technology are worth reading.

It’s the timeline feature that has grabbed everyone’s attention right now. It’s quite a radical change in how you see your content in your Facebook account, and how you interact with it, presenting it to you in a continuous, well, timeline that can stretch as far back as when you were born, if there’s anything about you online that you’ve shared or your friends have. Note that such content will have always been in Facebook; now it’s more easily seen.

(Personally, I love the new timeline. As someone who hardly ever uses Facebook even though I’ve been there since April 2007, this feature may well reboot my own use of the social networking site.)

Everyone’s profiles will convert to this new format on September 29. If you want to experience it before then, TechCrunch explains how to make the conversion right now. I did that last night and the screenshot shows the result (which you can see in real time if you visit).

As with anything that changes the familiar, there’s plenty of user criticism already. Will it result in a mass exodus of disgruntled users, perhaps flocking to Google+? What will it do for business? How about music and movies – will the integration of services like Spotify and Netflix stimulate the music and movie market, perhaps at the expense of illegal file sharing? And what about Google+ and Twitter – where does rebooted Facebook leave them?

Terrific questions, among the ones that Shel Holtz and I plan to talk about in the next episode of our FIR podcast on Monday September 26. We’ll also discuss what you have to say about it, if you care to contribute a comment (if you’re an FIR listener, join us in the FIR Room on Friendfeed).

Finally, while watching Mark Zuckerberg last night, I sat with camera in hand taking snaps on what I was watching. Those 82 pics are in an album online (ironically, at Google+). I also made an Animoto video which I like doing – animated pics set to a music track which tells a story too. Take a look on YouTube and see what you think.

Facebook. Rebooted. Disruptive.

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Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Charles

    The big question is why do Facebook want to become a digital scrapbook or diary? How many people really look at their own profile (which Timeline replaces)? How many people would prefer that others weren’t encouraged to go digging through their digital shoebox? I think Facebook have expended a massive amount of energy on something that’s not going to move any needles. What should their big reveal have been? Turning Facebook Ads into a Google Adsense competitor. I wrote this post on the subject a few hours before the f8 keynote: http://www.charlesneville.com/2011/09/dear-facebook/

    • neville

      Is that what you think Facebook wants to become, Charles? A digital scrapbook? Doubtful. But some users might want their Facebook to be that. Which is fine – Facebook gives you a foundation, a framework, to make it what you want it to be.

      Some people will love the timeline concept – I do. If it really does turn some people off, then Facebook will no longer be their kind of place. Disappointing, no doubt.

      Like everything online, Facebook is evolving. What we saw announced yesterday and a few days ago are steps in that evolution, which I doubt are anywhere close to complete (ie, more to come still). Like any business, Facebook needs to evolve to gain competitive advantage. It stopped being a cosy, clubby little place to hang out with your friends long ago, although it still is that to many people among the 800 million now who have signed up for Facebook (that figure we heard during Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote.)

      Lots at stake here – including keeping your customers happy. What a tightrope to walk.

  2. Charles

    I don’t have the new timeline on my Facebook account yet so don’t have the benefit of first hand experience, but in the keynote the way it looked was like a slick scrollable reverse chronology of someone’s life. It looked very visually attractive but I don’t think it’s going to fundamentally change how most people use Facebook. How many people scroll through their friends’ profiles as it is? Perhaps this might make them more inclined to do so, as a novelty at least.

    I’ve read commentary elsewhere, particularly in the piece you linked to on Twitter, bit.ly/o8RImz which alludes to Facebook doing this so we give up an increasing amount of data about ourselves, filling in the blanks, allowing them to better sell advertising. So maybe that’s what this is – another carrot to encourage you to share more. At some point I think we will reach a situation where Facebook will use the knowledge they have about their users to power advertising outside of Facebook.

    • neville

      It is visually attractive imo (although I read others who think it’s awful). Some think it will change everything about how you use Facebook; others think like you. And it’s another carrot to encourage sharing, as you note – that’s probably a consistent view.

      But, so what? As long as you know what you’d be getting yourself into, or have the opportunity to find out, you can make a choice.

      I’m just going to get to know the new Facebook – which I like a lot so far – and see what’s coming. Eyes wide open, etc.

  3. bigsands

    My favourite feature on Facebook is the like button, followed by the block function. Both empower the user to make a choice. I think that TV viewers should demand this for adverts and all other content to personalise your viewing experience. Manufacturers like Samsung, LG, Sony etc need to create functionality that allows you to block adverts or shows that you have seen too many times or dislike. Why is there no shelf-life for TV adverts? Facebook allows you to block anything that annoys you in one click! The TV model needs to be reloaded, this will be a headache for networks, but a benefit to viewers and a bonanza to content developers. I also foresee Facebook TV, coming soon, this will evolve after the success of the Spotify collaboration.

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