Facebook Timeline is a new user interface that facilitates information sharing from a historical perspective, with some current events thrown in. The social network no longer seems threatened by Google+.
Facebook has risked alienating users with Timeline, the
company's new user interface that surfaces users' histories online at a time
when some of their most important legacy information is buried behind tons of
older information posts.
As the UI name suggests, Timeline begins by showing
photos of users, from oldest to newest. Newest information is presented in a
Ticker on profile page, which will provide "stories" about games
that users have played, movies they've watched from Netflix, and music they've
listened to from Spotify.
Users who see this application activity in their friends'
Tickers can click to enjoy the same application services. The News Feed will
remain a valuable source for relevant information about a users' friends. ReadWriteWeb offers a detailed run-through of the new Timelines
The move is a bold bet for a company which prides itself
on constantly tuning its UI--not unlike the way Google tweaks its search
engine. Many of Facebook's 800 million users are digital curmudgeons accustomed
to having their information served a certain way from Facebook's fount of
Indeed, a Wall Street Journal poll
of nearly 1,400 people through Sept. 25 showed nearly 85 percent of users were unhappy
with Timeline, which is expected to roll out in the coming weeks.
Altimeter Group analyst Charlene Li called Timeline an
evolution of sharing.
"Each time, Facebook pushes the envelope on getting
people to share what they can share and I think that each time they do it, it
shifts what we do in some ways. And it shifts our behaviors and our mindsets."
Li told eWEEK
Li added that the historical perspective will allow Facebook to
target users more accurately with ads based on their tastes, from
wine preferences to favorite types of shoes.
Forrester Research analyst Sean Corcoran said Timeline
is an important feature
for interactive marketers to target users with goods and services, calling it
"word of mouth on steroids." This means changes in targeting users
with ads based on new types of behavioral data.
"This won't look like the behavioral data some of us
are used to in the display advertising market but eventually it could be even
better if activity patterns are included - simply because it can be more relevant,"
Corcoran wrote. "Just imagine Ticketmaster sending you a custom offer for
Radiohead tickets for you and your friend because you listened to their music
He added that user engagement data will evolve to provide
more detail about a user's content and other tastes over several years. That
provides a larger target for social ads, which eMarketer
said will help Facebook rack up $3.8 billion in ad sales this year,
with a projected $5.8 billion in ad revenues in 2012.
"Our primary business model and it always will be,
Dan Rose, vice president of platforms and partnerships for Facebook, told Wired.
"Our platform makes Facebook more interesting so people spend more time on
it, because I'm learning about my friends and I'm sharing things about myself
and I'm discovering new things. And it also makes it possible for us to put an
ad in front of you that's likely to be interesting to you."
Another interesting thing here is that while Google+
appeared to match Facebook in many respects, the incumbent with Timelines will
raise the bar on the presentation of information sharing.
"Before f8 it was clear that Google+ was 1 or 2 years behind FB. Now they are 3 or 4," wrote Echo co-founder Chris Saad
, who said Facebook wields the ultimate "attention management platform" online.
eMarketer analyst Debro Aho Williamson told the Associated Press
Plus almost looks dated now."
Dated is one way to look at it. Another way to look at it
is that users who are uneasy about or even despise Timeline could shift more
of their attention to Google+, whose asymmetric Circles sharing construct
resembles Twitter even as the network enables status post, photo and video
sharing the way Facebook has done for years.
Google+ could see its user base of what some say is close to 50 million
people get a boost from alienated Facebook users seeking something more familiar.