On Thursday 22nd September Facebook announced its new profile redesign which it calls the “Timeline”.
My first impression of this functionality is that it is a great improvement to the current profile pages we currently have. I can see why Facebook have implemented such a feature as users very rarely (if ever) use their profile pages because of how strong the news feed is at delivering media and content to its users.
Because I work as a developer on Facebook applications on a daily basis I am able to get a preview of the Timeline experience before it is released on the 29th September and thought I would go through its major features and give my insight into how powerful I see it being.
The first great addition to the timeline is the cover flow that dominates the top of the page. This is very reminiscent of how WordPress templates are displayed, with a large header graphic at the top of the page. You will have to make sure that you upload a high quality image for this however as I tried adding images from my facebook pictures and the quality did not display well on my screen!
To the right of the page is a filter that enables you to select months from the current year and below that are decade selections that go back to the day you were born. Once you click on a decade it filters years for which content exists on Facebook. When you select that year Facebook moves down the page and displays the content for that year. The way this content is displayed is very intuitive. Content is summarised when needed and multimedia is given priority over status updates (after all you will mainly want to go back to your photos).
Looking through the timeline as well is a great experience and really flows with the dragging of your mouse. It will display every status update, checkin, photo and conversation on the timeline since you were born! Moving between friends, likes, photos and map is seamless with the site sliding up the cover flow and revealing the selected section. When you move down your timeline you will also see that you action bar follows you as you progress down your timeline.
Another new addition to the profile timeline is the ability to select from predefined “life events” such as getting engaged or moving house. This functionality will allow you to fill out more details about your life and upload photos, tag people etc. This adds a personal touch to your timelines and also allows people to like and comment as with any other content you add to Facebook.
When moving around your timeline, you are able to filter down to a particular month and even just clicking on the timeline itself will enable you to add pretty much anything you like to any point in time and timestamp it with the exact date. You can see below how easy this is to achieve using the action bar. Using Facebooks new list functionality you can also control how public you would like to make your update to your timeline.
You are also able to tag people that were at that event in time and upload photos.
The last new feature to the timeline is the Map. For a long time now users have been checking into Facebook and tagging people whilst they have been out and about and Facebook has now started to turn this information into a proper display. This can be seen in your map section located below your cover flow. In addition, when checking into a place using the action bar it displays each location on a map when your mouse hovers over it.
From a development point of view Facebook have released new timeline api controls that allow you to provide custom verb and nouns to display your application on the timeline. These are called ‘Gestures’. For example instead of using the standard ‘Neil Young likes (or recommends) imdb’ you are able to build your own custom functionality for your timelines e.g. ‘Neil Young read a blog post on Neil Young CV’. This will make social interaction with applications on Facebook far more powerful. I will be writing a follow up blog post on using this new functionality soon.
Overall, the Facebook Timeline is a good addition for peoples accounts. It is powerful, intuitive and I have to say it is the one piece of functionality (with Gestures) that has stood out among over changes Facebook have made (and there have been many!?!). They have made it a more social experience and I feel that people will use their profile pages a lot more!
There are, however, still a few bugs I have spotted whilst moving around. For example it displays my younger brother as being my older sibling when in fact it has him born two years after me on my timeline! However I am sure this will be fixed by the time people get their timeline functionality on the 29th!