A few days ago, Facebook announced that over the course of the next few weeks the company would roll out — really, migrate — all users onto its new virtual space feature, Timeline. Less politely, this means that Timeline is being forced on Facebookers: Until recently, users had been able to opt-in only if they wanted to. Here is what you need to know about the service.
First, upon receiving notification that Timeline is coming for you, you have seven days to check it out privately and tweak it as you see fit. You can also simply activate it immediately, but be warned: After you hit “Publish,” you won’t be able to turn it off.
What is Timeline? Basically, it’s the section of your Facebook account that was previously called profile/wall. It’s the story of your life, as Facebook knows it. Beginning with your most recent activity, other users can scroll through a reverse-chronology, visual, literal timeline of you. To one side, there is an option for which year to survey. The user/viewer never has to leave the page: Once the last of the information from one given year is reached, the previous year loads automatically.
Although the layout is vastly different, the content shown on Timeline is similar to what is shown on profiles right now. Status updates, friendships made, photos tagged, employment and school history — it’s all there. People can also post on other people’s Timelines, just like the wall; no change there. One addition, though, is the 850 x 315 pixel cover photo that sits at the top of your page. This is in addition to your profile picture (which sits just below the cover photo), and is great for showing the world a picture that defines you.
Timeline has some users feeling caught in the headlights, naked for the world to see. Certainly, with the deadline of permanency looming, many users have begun to stress out, and “protest groups” have arisen. There’s no real need for concern, aside from that fact that, once notified that your Timeline is seven days from launching, you should make a point of going over your information — cleaning up, as it were.
Privacy is the biggest question, and this feature does not change your privacy settings. The same people who had access to your profile are seeing your Timeline. If there’s something really embarrassing you don’t want cropping up in your virtual life, you can easily edit or delete items from any year. (Hell, you can delete content of a year if you want to, though you might raise more questions in the process.) Sure, Timeline makes it easier than ever to lurk in friend’s lives — but really, if you’re worried about people searching your history, why bother having a Facebook account in the first place?
Pundits expect that Timeline will help social media evolve even further. I have been using Timeline for a few weeks now and, while it doesn’t feel like an evolution, it’s definitely growing on me and offering a mostly positive user experience. I’m a very big fan of the cover photo, which makes the page feel like an actual website and look professional (even if the content under isn’t). As for that content: relatively easy to sift through, although sometimes when you reach the bottom it takes a while for the next points to load. My biggest criticism of Timeline is that it wastes space by giving users two different opportunities to see their friends, by placing them at they top, beside the profile picture, information and photos, and then again randomly at the beginning of the Timeline proper. Well, this is my Timeline, not my friends’. I would prefer that Facebook use that space for a personal “About Me” section, where the user can post a little something to entertain/welcome visitors to the page. I always enjoyed typing what I thought were funny comments in the old layout.
Still, these are minor quibbles. Overall, I enjoy Timeline. It’s clean and organized, and makes it so much easier to creep people. Isn’t that what Facebook is all about?
Image courtesy of niallkennedy.