Facebook as introduced recently, at their f8 conference, a new re-imagining of the profile, by the name “timeline”. This is major news: the new profile pages is not limited to status updates and basic information anymore. The new timeline aims to be a complete description of a users life, right from the moment when they were born, and it will integrate every aspect of their lives: what books they’ve read, the places they’ve been, the music they’ve listened to, the applications they’ve used. And all this in a transparent, automated environment, so that users no longer have to worry about sharing what they’re doing, knowing that, with a one button permission, that will all be done automatically for them.
This new way of thinking has huge potential – some users were growing tired of the increased effort needed to keep a social profile, and this really simplifies things and lets users get back to what they want to do online, instead of having to worry about constantly visiting Facebook to share it. It also means loads of revenues for Facebook, because it will be the default platform on the web, possibly beating google as the one mandatory stop on the internet. And thus it will be able to get revenues in publicity and royalty deals with all the companies that will be eager to connect their services with Facebook to get the huge amounts of visibility that only the social network can provide.
However, problems always arise when talking about revolutions on the social space, and yet again we are faced with the ghost of privacy. If everything is automatically shared, everything we do online has the potential to be known, by everyone. If it is true that we can change the privacy settings and fine tune what will be shared and what won’t, that will defeat the whole purpose of click once and forget sharing. I believe that this will be a major problem for older users, but that the younger audiences, either due to not thinking about the possible consequences or because that is just the world they are used to won’t have any problems in jumping in the new everyone-knows-everything format.
This will also be particularly true because of the way that the new timeline works: people who only created an account when already of an older age will have a huge gap of information in the past, all the way back to when they were born. I created my Facebook page when I was around 19, and my new timeline just shows about nothing from 1989 to 2007 (with exceptions to my brothers births and my high school graduation). Granted you can manually insert important moments in the past, but that goes against the whole automated philosophy, forcing users to actively create content (and huge amounts of it, when talking about older people). This, of course, will not be such a problem for new, young users, who have a Facebook page almost since the moment they’re born, again shifting the platform towards a younger audience.