Some ramblings on Facebook’s Timeline

I had already written about the concept of a digital timeline (Dutch) before. But I actually didn’t anticipate that a social networking site was going to use it at its core (although I heard it had been done before). So I was really surprised and excited that Facebook’s new release incorporated this timeline concept.

Your wall is now replaced by your Timeline. That is a whole new concept altogether!

Timeline chronologically shows all your activities on Facebook, including photos, videos, status updates and locations. Or does it represent your steps taken in life?

On a side note, from a layout perspective, I really like the new “cover” feature. It is big and fills your screen. There’s still a profile picture, but the focus lays on the cover. Seems like we are all stars and brands nowadays. An entire overhaul of the profile concept. And look how very creative it can be too.

Anyway, back to the concept of a timeline.

As JP points out, the Facebook Timeline makes it easier for us to visualise activity around the social objects we share. This will help us understand more about ourselves, our interactions, our relationships. Location and time will become more easily discernible. He has some great insights in his follow-up post too.

To expand on that: imagine how powerful the simple timeline concept really can be. What if you could run every user’s actions backwards and forwards like a video, continually branching off into other peoples’ timelines every time they crossed paths in an event or party, played the same killer game, joined in a conversation or the same group even. That would be an ocean of information really. This is how a story is formed and it makes me think of two things: 1) plancast and the intention web (read this post if you have some 5 minutes). So the Timeline could not only be a sharing engine, but also a forecasting engine.  2) Cory Doctorow’s short story called Another Place, Another Time comes to mind! Here’s an excerpt that exactly reflects my feelings on the Timeline too:

“See this? This is a point. That’s one dimension. It doesn’t have length or depth. It’s just a dot. When you add another dimension, you get *lines*.” He pointed at the next diagram with a chewed and dirty fingernail. “You can go back and you can go forward, you can move around on the surface, as though the world was a page. But you can’t go up and down, not until you add another dimension.” He pointed to the diagram of the cube, stabbing at it so hard his finger dented the page. “That’s three dimensions, up and down, side to side and in and out.”

But this Timeline, and its unique way of visualizing also comes at a cost.

First of all, you are locked in into your Facebook identity as of your birth now. More and more, it will become our digital memory bank. Read some Nicholas Carr if you want to understand this better.

To end with, Kevin Marks also has some interesting and valid views on Facebook’s evolution.  Just like Twitter and Google+, Facebook is hostile to HTML he says. Images are chosen over links. For example, Facebook and G+ will show an image preview by default for a link. Another one is tagging friends in photos. This is still prevalent and even worsened in the new TimeLine redesign. It is making Facebook increasingly look like a giant bitmap too: header image with image links to friends, map (places visited) and likes. The url in return shows again an image preview. Give us back the textual links!

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