I’ve got a bit bored of Facebook recently. The site seemed to have lost it’s way a bit. The simple idea of sharing photos and interacting with your friends had been replaced with ‘Like’ buttons and poor quality games. I just found my entire newsfeed to be clogged up with this rubbish I had no interest and thus found myself driven away from the site.
Then a few weeks ago, I saw a bit of an uproar from users of the site (ironically on Twitter) due to some new updates. I curiously investigated and I have to say I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.
Basically the news feed appears to have changed so that ‘top news’ is now more prominent than recent news. This was previously split into two different feeds and you could choose which you looked at – which was perhaps for many a better way of presenting it. However, all your news is still there, it’s just that the top news is now more prominent. For me this can actually be very helpful as I only check Facebook once or twice a day. I can now pick up on top stories shared on the site alot quicker. I also like how Facebook groups stories together now (on thursday it told me how many of my friends had shared stories about Steve Jobs). Things like this seem to work well so far and can be very handy.
Photos are now displayed in a much more engaging way, giving you a better overview of what you’ll see in the album. In the new sidebar – which is a bit ugly but ultimately practical – your live updates and Facebook chat are now displayed much clearer and available on every page (instead of just the newsfeed). Overall the whole news feed experience seems to be more media rich, but crucially with much less of the clutter it used to have.
So after quite liking the changes, I decided to look a bit deeper at Facebook’s latest project – timelines. This is the new name for your profile – or wall – something which has stayed fairly static on Facebook with only a few minor changes down the years. Timelines changes that quite radically. At present it’s only available as a developer beta, but it’s quite easy to activate if you want to have a look.
The first thing that will strike you about Facebook timelines is just how much the site has on you. By activating the new look profile, Facebook will generate a complete timeline of your life based on the information the site has on you. It can be quite interesting looking at the things it picks up – things such as my sisters birth, when I started and left certain jobs and various events I have attended were all listed on the line.
Mark Zuckerberg was very passionate that timelines could and should tell the story of your life, but it is also a stark reminder that everything you put on Facebook is still there and can always be dug up. Be careful what you make public.
The layout of timelines will probably throw some and annoy many more. Your timeline goes vertically down the page with stories appearing to the left and right in chronological order. I quite like this system, I find it easier to see what is going on quickly without having to scroll for a while. You also have complete control over what is shown on your timeline, you can remove stories or make them bigger and more prominent for all to see (this may also affect top stories in the newsfeed).
Profile pictures have also changed – you now get two. This might sound strange at first, but actually works very well. Your traditional profile pic, the one that will be shown all over Facebook (and nowadays the web) is shown smaller than it currently is, but still in roughly the same place. Just behind it is a much wider picture, a place for you to put a group shot, or a landscape of your holiday, or in my case me and Dragon Khan at PortAventura! I really like this new ‘headline’ pic. It’s a great way to showcase a new picture you love without ruining the profile pic thumbnail.
In fact I actually love the whole interface. It makes it easier to see your most up to date activity and also look back through the archives. You easily add new info about your life, past or present (which is something I can see a lot of Facebook addicts doing!) by clicking on the timeline and writing. General info about you and your likes, places and friends is stored at the top under your headline pic in a small tidy space. This leaves the rest of your profile open to share whatever you want with your friends.
And this is what I love most about Timelines. It’s a new interface with a lot in it, but it’s not cluttered at all. It’s super easy to use and looks fantastic (in fact makes a lot of competitors look dated). And it finally focuses on what made Facebook great, sharing your life with your friends online. No silly apps or likes ruining the place, just you and your connections all in one place.
Facebook Timelines is expected to roll out before the end of the year and I’m sure there will be another swarm of complaints heading Zuckerberg’s way. But to those people I ask you just to try the new system, get used to it, give it at least a week. I’m pretty certain you’ll actually agree that Facebook are onto another winner with this one. And even if you don’t, lets be honest, you’re not going to leave FB anyway!