Yesterday at its annual f8 conference for developers, Facebook announced major changes to its site. You may have noticed changes to Facebook this week, such as the running stream of posts in the right column, but these changes are only the beginning of the future for Facebook.
The biggest changes announced yesterday included a complete overhaul of user profiles and the use of apps to interact with your friends in real time. The changes are significant and how much you embrace them will depend upon how much you want to share. If you want your life to be an open book, you will absolutely love the new features. If you relish your privacy, you may not be a big fan of what is to come.
Facebook celebrated last week when half a billion users logged on to the site in a single day. That’s half a billion, with a “b”. Facebook now has 800 million registered users, most of whom are active users. Unless Facebook expands its audience to aliens or the animal population, it doesn’t have much room for growth.
Facebook is looking at new ways to grow beyond trying to sign up the human population on Earth. Instead of striving to enlist new members, Facebook’s new stated goal is to increase engagement with the users it already has.
The changes to Facebook are designed to enhance your experience while on Facebook or with other sites that are connected to Facebook. In short, instead of trying to get more people to sign up, Facebook want its current members to spend more time on Facebook.
Here are the major innovations which were presented yesterday:
Timeline – Your Profile Becomes a Digital Scrapbook
Facebook will be changing the format of your profile page so that you will be able to share the story of your life with others. Instead of your profile page merely showing your most recent status updates and a few pictures, it will show pictures you have highlighted as important, apps you have used, articles you have read and maps of your recent locations. Your profile will have a timeline which sorts your stories, posts and photos by year. You can include maps of places you’ve traveled and where you have lived. You can highlight the important events and photos by starring them, ensuring that you feature information that you want people to see.
You can make your profile your personal biography. Upload your pictures from the year you were born and every year after that. Write stories about what happened at each turning point in your life. Upload videos of your first steps (if video was around then), scan your elementary school report cards, prom pictures and high school diploma, if you wish. Facebook becomes your digital scrapbook, onto which you can record your entire life.
You can share all this information with the world or just your friends. You can choose what you share and how broadly you share it.
Tech Tip: Try to avoid uploading embarrassing pictures of yourself and making your profile public. That part hasn’t changed.
Facebook Gestures – You Don’t Have To Like What You’re Doing
Right now, all you can do on Facebook is “Like” something: a book, movie, or a song, for example. But Mark Zuckerberg realizes that you might be doing something other than Liking. You might be Reading a book while Watching a tv show and Listening to music. You may Like none of it. You can now tell Facebook what you’re doing, even if you don’t Like it. You can now (Verb) a (Noun) in your updates.
Open Graph – A New Class of Apps
Facebook has partnered with dozens of companies to make their services more social. The first example given in the presentation was Spotify. You will soon be able to connect your Spotify account to Facebook so that when you listen to a song, it posts to your Facebook page.
This is where the stream in the right column of Facebook comes in handy. The information about what you’re doing with an app appears in the stream. When a friend sees that you are listening to a song on Spotify, she can hover her cursor over that notice. She will then have the option to listen to the song on Spotify along with you. Facebook calls this “Real Time Serendipity.”
App sharing isn’t limited to music. You can share videos with friends on Facebook with sites like Netflix and Hulu+ as well.
You can also share articles you are reading with sites such as Yahoo News, The Daily, The Washington Post and other connected sites. From your Facebook page, you will be able to see the most popular articles and topics shared by your friends.
Apps go beyond media. Do you like to run? You can share your runs automatically on your Facebook page with the Nike+ app. Your friends can see how far you ran, how fast and a map of your run.
Cooking apps will be linked with Facebook so you can share special recipes with your friends or the menu of each meal. Unfortunately, your friends can’t help you eat that meal through Facebook, but perhaps that will be included in a further update.
All of this app sharing won’t be restricted to your computer. You will be able to enjoy the app sharing experience on your smartphone as well.
To reinforce the commitment Facebook has to social media sharing, the CEO’s of Spotify and Netflix appeared on stage to talk about Facebook integration with their services.
Want to learn more? Check out this video from Facebook showing the New Class of Apps in action:
Have you ever been annoyed by the pop-up windows on your computer asking you if you authorize a site to connect with Facebook? Well that’s being changed too. You won’t have to authorize an app to post to Facebook each time you access the site. In what was called “frictionless experience,” you can give Facebook blanket permission to post every time you access that app. For example, you can authorize Facebook to post every time you listen to a song on Spotify or read an article on Yahoo News.
After you give authorization, every article you read from that source will be posted in Facebook. So if you want to keep your online reading habits private, don’t give authorization to Facebook Credentials. If you want to share your reading list with the world, then connect your sites with Facebook.
Annual Report – What Do You Have to Show for the Year?
At the end of each calendar year, Facebook will compile an annual report, showing your activities for the year. Your yearbook will include graphics and statistics of how you have used Facebook that year.
Zuckerberg emphasized that you can control your sharing features through your privacy settings on Facebook. Once these features are activated, you should check your privacy settings (and those of your kids on Facebook) to make sure that you have the privacy settings you desire. Don’t assume that the default privacy setting will be that sharing is turned off. Stay tuned to The Wonder of Tech for more details as these features are introduced.
The Timeline feature is available immediately to developers and will be available to those who sign up for the beta (early) version within the next few weeks. No word yet on sign up procedures if you want to be the first to test the new features.
Some of the app sharing features are already available, such as Facebook Credentials. Other apps, such as Spotify, will be available in the near future.
Many of the changes to Facebook involve different ways of organizing information. The Timeline, Yearbook and stream all present the same information in a different format. The enhanced sharing through apps and Facebook Credentials are innovations you may either savor or detest. But the choice to use them is yours.
If you want to see the f8 presentation from yesterday, click here: f8 Facebook Presentation. I recommend watching at least the beginning for Andy Sandberg’s uncanny and hilarious impression of Mark Zuckerberg. Many who watched were fooled and thought he actually was Zuckerberg.
Can you tell which one is the real billionaire?
Facebook’s new features involve enhanced sharing, make it easier for you to share information about yourself and to access the information of others. Privacy concerns abound, but if you are excited about sharing your information with others, yesterday’s announcement was a bonanza for you.
My question is, when Facebook has nearly all of the people on the planet spending all of their time on Facebook, where do they grow from there?
Google+, the social media ball is definitely in your court now.
Are you excited about Facebook’s new features? Will you be sharing more with your friends via Facebook? Let us know in the Comments section below!