Facebook Timeline has been on the back burner for months now, after it was first announced at the company’s f8 conference in September. Despite much delay, it is finally rolling out to the public, starting with New Zealand. That means it’s only a matter of days before it comes to you, so brace your News Feed, because the fans and protestors are coming in full-force. In the meantime, here’s everything you need to know about Facebook Timeline.
The new features are significantly different than any other upgrade to Facebook before. Timeline presents a way to digitally document your entire life, from birth to present, via wall posts, photos, announcements and events. Consider it a neatly organized social scrapbook with a visually pleasing interface.
Timeline is a radical departure from previous versions of the Facebook user profile. The most prominent feature is the addition of a cover photo at the top of the page. Users can change this to whatever they’d like it to be.
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If you haven’t already received an invite to Timeline, and don’t want to wait any longer, you can enable it now in eight simple steps.
Timeline was supposed to be released to the public in September. October. November. The feature was set back, possibly after a copyright infringement lawsuit was filed against Facebook by Timelines.com. Later, Facebook admitted it was taking its time to roll out Timeline to users, relying on more technically adept people to experience the features first. Mashable‘s Lance Ulanoff explains, “Facebook is trying to educate the media on the fundamentals and benefits of Timeline.”
What to Do With Your New Timeline
So, if or when your Facebook Timeline is activated, what exactly should you do with it?
That’s up to you, and how much you want to reveal to your friends and followers. But there are a lot of new features that have the potential to create a captive, visual biography. Regardless of how much information you choose to fill out, there are a few different methods and privacy-related points to consider.
As you scroll down your new Timeline, a floating menu bar will appear at the top of your screen. Use it to add new events.
Events are divided into categories. The first is “Work and Education,” in which you add jobs, studies, volunteer work and military service you completed before joining Facebook.
Next is “Family and Relationships,” where you can note engagement and marriage events. Facebook also suggests you add the birth of your child or a pet adoption here. Finally, you may feel inspired to write your reaction in the “Lost a Loved One” category.
“Living” events include relocation, buying a home and even getting a new roommate. For anyone who likes showing off their shiny wheels, Facebook also included a new vehicle category.
Facebook may have overstepped the privacy concerns of some users with its “Health and Wellness” section. It provides the opportunity to tell friends about broken bones, surgery or overcoming an illness.
Finally, “Milestones and Experiences” is the catch-all category, a broad yet flexible ode to all of life’s turning points. Currently you have the option to add a hobby, a new language, a license, an achievement or award, a trip and a “piercing or tattoo.” Hmmm, we’ll all be looking forward to the pics, that’s for sure.
Facebook also allows user to add an “Other Life Event” to each category for circumstances that don’t fit into its pre-set milestones.
When you add an event, a pop-up window appears for you to complete simple fields relevant to said event. You can add more info via the “Story” box, and attach a suitable photo, either from pics you’ve already uploaded to Facebook or from your computer.
Note that events you add to your Timeline default to “public” view. If you want to keep your events private to your friends, you need to click the drop-down menu on the bottom of the window to set your preferred privacy level. As well as selecting just your friends, you can also include relevant groups or set up a custom option.
Once you’ve added and saved your event, it will show up large in your Timeline display, taking up a two-column space. We presume that because you’ve taken the time to add it, Facebook deems the event important to you.
If this isn’t the case, you can shrink the event down to one-column size. To minimize, click the star at the top-right of the event box.
You can also edit, hide or delete events from the same menu.
Be aware that when you add an event to your Timeline, Facebook notifies your friends via the “Recent Activity” module. If you were hoping to fill in your Timeline with little attention, you can remove the alert by hovering over it and hitting the “X.”
Alternatively you can add events directly in the Timeline. This is a convenient feature, as you may find that looking back through your Timeline’s existing content jogs your memory. To add an event in the Timeline just hover over the central blue line. Click the plus symbol that appears to add whatever kind of event suits your fancy.
We suspect the average Facebook user may add a few milestone events to fill in the blanks of their online past. On the other hand, maybe you’re not willing to take the time to detail your past so thoroughly.
What do you think? Will you fill in your Timeline? Will your mom fill in hers? Will you click through to see other’s Timeline events as they add them? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Image courtesy of Shawn Allen
What does all of this mean for Facebook’s more than 800 million users? That depends on your stance about the new features.
Facebook Timeline is a way to document your entire life, from birth to present, but because the company began in 2004 for college students, it might take some time and effort to manually fill out.
Some have already jumped into Timeline and are getting creative with their profile presentation, most specifically cover photos, which is a new feature that includes a personalized image at the top of the page.
Playful and fun, we’re big fans of Ekkapong’s rainy creation.
This is a cunning way to keep the old Facebook design.
Mathew makes us smile with a big photo / little photo visual gag.
This concept is simple, but very effective.
A profile within a profile within a profile…and so on.
Here’s some mini-me fun from Mohammad.
Vinh offers an imaginative take on the “Timeline” with a look into the future.
Lawson sees his profile pic as a snapshot, with more images spanning out across the cover photo.
Maggie is mixing up her social networks with a Facebook / Google+ profile.
The low placement of the profile pic box doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a full body shot, but Ekkapong found a good way to work around that.
What About Privacy?
Some have clamed, in criticism of Facebook Timeline, that by encouraging users to fill their profile, the company is seeking to capture more user data to further appeal to advertisers. Others have expressed concern that it is now easier to discover information about a person that was previously difficult to access. Further more, some believe these additional features regarding users’ personal information may encourage identity theft.
We asked our readers if they would fill in their Facebook Timeline gap when the new features were first announced in September, and we received a mix of responses.
- “I think for people, this is less important, but for businesses, it could be huge. I would love to be able to see how often a business has posted and changed throughout their history, rather than simply looking at a static website, of what they choose to put as their History. This could be really neat. As for me, there’s no way I’d bother going back and adding things. What a waste!” – Chris Gregoire
- “Google+ is looking more and more attractive.” – Graham Giblin
- “I’m really enjoying the new profile layout. It really gives users a lot more character to their profiles without going down the road of MySpace. Although, I feel like Facebook has overlooked the importance of profile pictures as they have been relegated to a 180×180 box. Additionally cover pics can’t be clicked and it takes 3 steps to actually like or comment on them. Too bad” – Randolph Burlton
- “I have tried Timeline on my own profile and I would have to say that it is an absolute masterpiece of social & personal news consumption…I only wish I had posted more on it. It also encourages oneself to be a bit more open because you’re literally creating your life’s history on the web – in a format that no others have. Bravo.” – Bob Orchard
- “I actually find it rather arrogant to think that my friends would be even the slightest bit interested in what I got for my seventh birthday. My Timeline shall remain pretty blank.” – Aaron Martin-Colby