Unless you live in a cave, you probably have heard of the new Facebook Timeline. If haven’t, what you need to know is that it is a major profile redesign that will display all your life events in a linear way. Announced on September 22, it is still only available for developers but should be out soon for the rest of the Facebook population.
Facebook’s Timeline is usually highly praised in reviews for its innovation. I was on my guard since I stumbled upon the first screenshots to be released though; the social network is known to have privacy issues and, although I know very well what I’m dealing with when I publish personal content on the internet, the prospect of having my life displayed chronologically for everyone to see gives me the chills.
Timeline isn’t only bad though. I discovered while using it for the first time last weekend that it was actually very beautiful and a smart way to display information. It’s also customizable to a certain extent.
What’s new with Timeline
Timeline is a new way to display your information. Every user gets to have a cover picture, a panoramic banner that is supposed to represent them. I can imagine companies using this cover for marketing purposes, as I already have, if Timeline is integrated to business pages as well. This new design displays below your profile picture a snippet of your personal information as well as your friends’ list, photos, likes and any other app you’d like to show on the front page (up to 8 rectangles are available).
The most impressive aspect of Facebook’s Timeline how it sorts your content in a linear way; everything you’ve ever posted (photos, status updates, videos, locations, etc.) will find its way on your profile, chronologically ordered on a line that represents your life. Timeline’s algorithm picks the most important events of your life but you can always hide some posts if you think they don’t belong on your wall. You can also star events you consider important so that they will be featured on your Timeline, enlarging horizontally and making a break in the flow of information. This function alone is a great bonus since you can shape your profile to show your successes and best moments to your friends, family and colleagues.
Besides scrolling down, Timeline provides a new way of browsing through your past; a floating menu on the top right corner of the page enables you to pick specific months and years to rediscover what you posted back then. Major achievements like graduation, getting a new job and your birth have their own big rectangular box in your Timeline and you can add for each of them a custom image from your computer or gallery.
Facebook’s redesign is visually appealing, neat and easy to grasp. Customizing your Timeline is fun and you don’t get tired of playing with it.
Thanks to Timeline, browsing through one’s history has never been easier. While before you would have to go through all the content in order to find something posted months or years ago, making it a hard and long process, with Timeline it’s just a few clicks away. It’s true that the new wall only displays some information, the updates it considers important, but your friends will always have the option of clicking on the ellipsis at the end of each section to see more. What does that mean? It means that all your friends can see everything you’ve done in the past few years, and that you will have to go through ALL the posts you’ve ever written, read them and hide them one by one if you want to clear your wall of embarrassing moments or personal information you thought was lost in time. We’re talking about hours of work if, like me, you’re on Facebook since 2007.
The other option to limit access to your profile is to create a list and restrict them from seeing your wall posts, something I do myself on occasion. The only problem with that option is that your restricted friends will see pretty much nothing at all. With Facebook Timeline, it’s everything or nothing. And you will have to be extra careful with the new things you put on your wall as they are there to stay, one or two clicks away from your stalker friends.
The real danger of Facebook’s new Timeline though goes far beyond a few curious stalkers; identity theft is what you should fear. With Facebook encouraging you to add your date of birth and location, information that is, by the way, often used to validate your identity to credit card companies and banks, anyone could pretend to be you. For anyone with experience, as little as ten minutes is enough to know where and with whom you’ve been in the last few weeks, where you work, live, when and where you were born, your family members… The list of personal information Timeline lays down is both impressive and scary.
It all goes down to this; think twice before posting personal information online.
When will it be available?
Facebook’s new Timeline probably would be available for everyone already if there wasn’t a lawsuit from Timelines.com delaying the awaited launch. Although everyone is pretty confident Facebook will win, it could still be a few days to a few weeks before it becomes public. In the meantime, you can still register as a developer to enable the beta version.
I like Facebook’s Timeline; it has a terrific design and this new way of displaying information is both dynamic and practical. I’m also excited about the redesign of the business pages and can’t wait to see what it will be like. On the other hand, I’m worried about all the content made easily available on my wall and I don’t look forward to spending more hours editing my profile.