Yesterday, Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg unveiled Facebook Timeline, a new feature that's coming to users of the social network very soon.
Due to Facebook's history of not being so forthcoming with users regarding new features and privacy concerns about those features, I put my hands on the new Timeline to learn as much as I could about it. Here's a summary of what I learned, and you can take a tour of Timeline in the slideshow below.
Remember, Timeline is still in beta, so answers to these questions could change by the time the feature is made public. Here are 10 of the most important questions and answers about Facebook Timeline:
Q: What is Facebook Timeline?
A: Timeline is a new feature in Facebook (although it was accidentally released very briefly to the public back in December 2010 as Facebook Memories, and promptly removed) that shows the story of your life, as you choose to tell it or as Facebook has recorded it, in a visual, scrolling, ordered timeline. It's a cross between visual blog and online scrapbook.
Q: How can I get Facebook Timeline?
A: Two ways: 1) Sign up as a Facebook developer (which takes less than five minutes, is free, and doesn't require anything more than a mobile phone or credit card number for verification), create a phony app, go back to your homepage and wait for an option to enable Timline to appear; or 2) wait until September 30, 2011, when the feature is scheduled to become live.
Q: What appears on my Timeline?
A: Status updates, photos, friendships made, as well as job history, marital status changes, and other information that you've recorded in your profile.
Q: Is the Timeline replacing my Facebook wall?
A: Yes and no. Timeline will replace your profile page and wall, only after you opt into it and publish it.
When you log into Facebook and go to Facebook.com, that feed page of Recent Stories will still be the same. But, when you or visitors go to your unique Facebook URL, such as https://www.facebook.com/jillduffyNYC, they'll be able to see your Timeline instead of your old profile information and wall. If you are a developer, you should be able to see the Timeline on that link; if you are not signed up as a developer, you will only see the old profile and wall, as the permissions allow.
Q: I'm worried about privacy! Who can see my Facebook Timeline?
A: At present, only other developers can see your Timeline. After the service goes live to all users, everyone will be able to see it.
Q: Can I restrict which people who can see certain pieces of information, photos, and other details of my Timeline?
A: Yes! In the same way that you can manage who can see a status update or photo, you can limit who sees all the entries of your Timeline. Each entry has a drop-down menu next to it that lets you filter who can see the item.
Q: Can I delete status updates, images, and other content from my Timeline?
Q: When is Facebook Timeline coming?
A: September 30 is the date it's schedule to roll out to all users, although if you sign up as a Facebook developer (free), you can try out the beta immediately.
Q: It sounds like you've tried out Facebook Timeline. How is it?
A: I must admit that I liked playing with it a lot more than I liked filling in standard profile information. I set up Timeline on a Facebook account that doesn't have too much data in it, so it didn't feel overwhelming, but I could see how an active Facebook user would feel totally bowled over the first time he or she opened the Timeline. Luckily, the Timeline has a "publish" button (much like a blog), so you have an opportunity to spend some time teasing it into shape, adding the permissions you want, deleting or marking private images you don't want everyone to see, and so forth. Most Facebook users, I think, will want to dedicate some time to combing through their information before hitting publish, but it's by and large a one-time setup process. After the one-time setup, new Timeline entries will come from your Facebook activity, and you'll be adding permissions and making other adjustments as you go.
I also like how you can add life events, either current or back-dated. Some of the life events are pre-set in Facebook, like getting a new job and buying a home, but you can also create a custom life event or milestone.
Q: What are some of the cons?
A: The dimensions for display images is unconventional, and I found that I didn't like how most of my images looked when I uploaded them without manipulating their size and dimensions. You can drag an image around the viewer space, but you can't crop or resize from directly within Facebook. (I'm taking bets now on how soon Facebook will build an image editor, or acquire a company that already makes one.)
Another not-so-great element: When you add back-dated information, you associate the date using a nice interactive calendar, but you can only jump back one month at a time (not a year at a time), which means a dozen clicks per year. It takes a long time to get back to 2004!
Copyright © 2010 Ziff Davis Publishing Holdings Inc.