Facebook Timeline: A Step in the Right Direction

Last week, a minor update was released for all users of Facebook with features such as the ‘news ticker’ and a new way to display the Top News. The news ticker seems to display every update that any of your friends are doing – such as comments on pictures, liking of status updates and more. It caused widespread outrage and (as with every update that Facebook puts out) the majority of users vow to never use the social network giant again.

In an unrelated note, Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook, announced at the F8 conference that some 800 million and up users had access to an account. But the main big news to come from this particular event was the launch of Facebook Timeline.

I’ve had a couple of days to play with it myself and am very, very happy with it. Unfortunately only Facebook developers are allowed to access the new feature early, which I’ve managed to acquire just to review it – aren’t I nice? For everyone else, the feature will be rolled out in approximately three weeks time.

What it strikes me as is a digital scrapbook of your Facebook life, which as you scroll down goes all the way back through your life and even before your pre-Facebook life, showing events such as your birth and the birth of siblings for example.

Yeah, that happened.

The most noticeable aspect you will see is the presence of what is labeled your Timeline Cover. Think of it as a second profile picture, that others will see across the top of the page to get a better idea about what sort of stuff you are into. I would advise you to pick a high resolution picture, as the Cover is very long and not so tall – compact camera photos will be zoomed in and look messy.

Then as you scroll down the page you will see that Facebook has assumed a two column view with the Timeline running through the middle, each update marked along it. As you reach the end of a month or year, a small header marks it, so you are always time oriented through someones profile page. You can also navigate via the new markers in the top right of your page, which show recent months and then years back through your social networking life. Click one, and you are scrolled down to the appropriate part in a life while Facebook quickly loads the relevant posts from the time that was selected.

How a Timeline enabled page could look. There is the option to expand and hide posts from the list.

The social networking giant also provides support for life events, like graduating, marrying, getting a new license and the like. For these, an accompanying picture can span the entire width of your profile page, which is much more likely for people to take note as they delve through your life. You also have the option to ‘feature’ any other post, which forces that to span the width of the page too, regardless whether it is a new album, a status update or somewhere you have visited.

The interactive map pans, zooms and sweeps to show your updates. No swishing unfortunately.

Places is now a far more important feature with the map view added to the Timeline. It allows you to see not only what you did/accomplished/visited but where that took place too. A nice scrolling and zooming map accompanies this, to show where and when these took place. In the picture below, you can see that where I used to live near Portsmouth, all of my check-ins have been grouped together, and when clicked the map will zoom in and expand the updates. Other single check-ins can be seen too, with my visits to Exeter services and London Victoria station marked.

The visual aspect of Timeline is phenomenal. It really is something nice to look at; a fun and smooth way to traverse your Facebook life. With photos blown up large across the Timeline (because let’s be honest, everyone comes to Facebook to check new photos of what your friends have been up to) and important life events selected by the network itself for you to read while scrolling back through is one of the best things Facebook has done.

Of course, it’s still buggy, but it hasn’t been publicly released yet, with big gaps seemingly missing from your Timeline and certain posts more dominant over perhaps more important ones. But I’m sure they will be ironed out come release day.

If you don’t like the idea, or are turned off by the concept of even more change, there isn’t much you can do without pulling the plug as this will be rolled out to everyone over the next month. I won’t be doing that however, I think this is a vastly important and one of the best updates to Facebook, since it’s inception in 2004. It incorporates a fantastic new way to see what you have been up to and how, where and when you were doing it. It’s like joining an entirely new social networking site, and mapping everything you have ever done that Facebook may or may not have missed, in high definition and glossily presented like a weekly magazine.

For the time being, Facebook’s Timeline is helping me to cut down on Twitter.

Follow BenjaminLScott on Twitter

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